Army business, Army money

6 03 2021

Remember when, after the February 2020 massacre of 29 innocent people in Korat, the then military chief and now senior advisor to the king Gen Apirat Kongsompong vowed to

IThe killer’s problem was “a property dispute” with “the soldier’s senior officer and his mother-in-law…”. In other words, “the army’s side dealings [were]… the root cause.” It adds that “analysts” say that “some army officers enter into private business dealings — and it’s an open secret.”

Apirat (r) doing his duty for the king

A few days later, “then army chief Apirat Kongsompong promised to investigate the problem…”. He vowed to terminate “unsound” internal army projects, after shady transactions were raised as a possible motive behind a soldier’s shooting spree in Korat.

In fact, he did nothing to change the underlying situation. As we said back then, the corruption continues. He did nothing in the months that followed other than endear himself to the palace. The Army remains corrupt.

Indeed, how little has changed is on display in a recent Bangkok Post op-ed by Chuenchom Sangarasri Greacen who is “an independent energy researcher and a former policy analyst at Energy Policy and Planning Office, Ministry of Energy.” It is worth reading in full. Here are some tidbits:

An army plan to open its land for massive solar farm development, up to 30,000 megawatts, has attracted a large number of energy firms. On Feb 22, representatives of more than 30 firms lined up to meet Lieutenant-General Rangsi Kitiyanasap, President of Royal Thai Army Radio and Television Channel 5, to seek clarity on rules and criteria on how to win a slice of the massive solar farm pie.

Why the Army has the boss of their television propaganda machine negotiating this is unclear.

The author points out that many see “this pending deal as a new milestone of the military’s over-reach and a worrying departure from established protocols and rules.” He observes that the pending deal sidelines technocrats, the civil bureaucracy and the public:

… the sanctity of energy technocracy was in complete tatters when the 30 plus energy companies scrambled for a meeting with Lt Gen Rangsi for a slice of the 600 billion baht solar farm pie. Note that the meeting took place at Channel 5 Headquarters, not the Ministry of Energy.

Energy Ministry officials were excluded “from the closed-door meeting.” The author adds: “So does the ascendancy of military deal-making render the Energy Ministry redundant?”  Thailand’s existing over-capacity is explained: “In light of the already extreme excess reserve margin, a 30,000MW solar farm deal is outrageously disconnected from the reality of Thailand’s electrical needs.”

So what is going on? Of course, it is about lining pockets and paying off the hierarchy. And, it may even be illegal (not that illegality has ever bothered the khaki machine: “The supremacy of military deal making not only tossed aside an entire ministry, utility technocrats and guiding principles in power sector planning, it also likely skirts the existing rule of law.” He concludes: “While Thailand’s energy technocracy has its flaws, its replacement with closed door deal making by the military is arguably worse.”

But who pays?

Who will foot the bill for the army’s 600 billion baht deal, plus the cost to upgrade the power system to accommodate large-scale solar farms? If history is any guide, the Thai public as electricity users will likely end up shouldering the burden, thanks to Egat, the co-conspirator of the army’s deal, who will pass through costs directly to consumers.

How much money can the taxpayer be milked for? There’s the monarchy, the Army, the police, and the tycoons. They all bathe in the public trough.


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