As happened under the Democrat [sic.] Party regime led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Internal Security Operations Command is politicized. It always has been a deeply political organization, born of counterinsurgency, but between Abhisit, then deputy ISOC commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha and the Army, in 2011, ISOC actively campaigned for the Democrat Party.
Now as self-appointed premier, Prayuth is head of ISOC and is using it in all kinds of ways, including the old-fashioned pro-monarchy campaigns and as an agency to hunt down lese majeste suspects. It is very much a central part of the repressive apparatus of the state.
The Dictator now wants to expand ISOC and for it to “incorporate the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) into its new structure.” ISOC has been instrumental in propaganda exercises in the south and, recently, stands accused of torture cover-ups.
SBPAC “is an integrated military-police-civilian organisation which oversees projects aimed at improving quality of life in the deep South.” It has been strongly supported by General Prem Tinsulanonda of the Privy Council, but Prayuth sees it as being too close to the police. Army-police conflicts and competition for control of the illicit trade and the flow of corruption monies in the south has long been a point of conflict between these two pillars of corruption. Of course, the conflict in the south also sends considerable state funds to military and police.
The report states that “Prayut proposed the merger because he found it uncomfortable to deal with the SBPAC, then headed by Pol Col Tawee Sodsong…. [He] was frustrated at Isoc’s inability to give commands to the SBPAC.” Prayuth want to personally control everything. He thinks SBPAC has been “politicized,” meaning that the Army’s politicized ISOC had better gain control.
SBPAC reportedly “has 199 staff members and was given a budget of 2.7 billion baht last year and 3.7 billion baht this year…”.
Such changes also point to the ways that the military is embedding its control throughout Thailand in ways that make it a kind of parallel state that no civilian regime will easily be able to root out.