Corrupt army thugs I

7 06 2020

There are a couple of stories about the military that deserve critical attention.

The first relates to Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s boxing stadium that created Thailand’s largest virus cluster. Back in March, a Bangkok Post editorial stated that the Army  “arrogantly chose to ignore a prime ministerial order dated March 3 that asked all parties to avoid organising sporting events as they could exacerbate the spread of Covid-19.”

At about the same time, columnist Veera Prateepchaikul at the Bangkok Post was pointed in his comments:

Clipped from Khaosod

Many people, myself included, doubt the probe will lead to any decisive punitive action against the “big fish”. There will, however, likely be some “small fry” who end up as scapegoats.

In his capacity as chairman of the boxing stadium, I wonder whether the probe team, headed by director of the Army Personnel Department, will dare to probe the army chief himself. Worse, we are yet to hear any public apology from him.

On cue, a Khaosod report provides an initial “answer.” It includes this:

Lumpinee Boxing Stadium is owned and operated by the Royal Thai Army as one of its commercial ventures. It is chaired entirely by army officers, including the army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong who sat as the “honorary chairman” of the stadium.

What has the Army committee decided? It has decided that it is the management of the stadium that is held responsible. Not the “big fish.” With the Army investigating itself, its came up with a verdict that everyone already knew. The:

inquiry committee found the officials in charge of the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium to have neglected disease control measures and allowed a match to go ahead on March 6 despite a closure order.

The management has been removed. Thai PBS reports:

Army Commander-in-Chief General Apirat Kongsompong ordered the removal of the entire board, including the stadium’s manager, Maj-Gen Rachit Arunrangsi, the chief of the Army Welfare Department…

Yes, it is the Army Welfare Department that was also implicated in February’s Korat massacre by a disgruntled soldier.

But the stadium’s president, Maj. Gen. Rachit “was not removed [from the Army], but transferred to an inactive post…”. It seems he will be allowed to retire this September, on schedule and with all his benefits.

Gen Apirat also “sacked” the stadium committee but all of them have been “transferred to other posts as punishment.” Is that punishment? Perhaps they can’t make as much loot in the “other posts.” Perhaps they might have to do some Army work in the “other posts.” But all Gen Apirat has done is transfer his underlings.

A Bangkok Post editorial observes:

There is no indication whether Maj Gen Rachit and the others involved will also face disciplinary action as the army has been tight-lipped on the matter.

One can only hope they will face action because simply relieving them of their duties is too light a penalty, given the damage it has caused the country.

It goes on to observe:

Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong has never offered any apologies to the public over this sorry affair. How can he distance himself from the controversy and take no responsibility?

This is not acceptable, since it was his subordinates who placed the whole country at risk from the pandemic, and were responsible for remedial costs.

Add in the Korat massacre and the message is of impunity and military privilege. Gen Apirat continues to condone and abet military corruption.


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