The recent chatter on social media has been of nepotism is becoming a din. Several of the local media have tiptoed around the story because it involves the leaking of a secret military order that involves the testy and erratic General Prayuth Chan-ocha, The Dictator of Thailand.
Khaosod has an initial report. It states that a “nephew of junta chairman and [self-appointed] Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has allegedly been given a post in the army and a lieutenancy…”.
The order appointing the 25 year-old Patipat Chan-ocha was “signed by his father, a member of the ruling junta who until recently was a top army commander.” That is General Preecha Chan-ocha, The Dictator’s brother. Preecha has form, having been involved in the Rajabhakdi Park cover-up and also to have displayed poor arithmetical skills (well, that would be the kind interpretation) on his wealth declaration.
Khaosod was careful – as it needs to be when dealing with a ruthless junta – and declared that the leaked document’s “appearance and format is consistent with formal documents of the Thai bureaucracy.”
The document was marked “secret,” which itself seems odd when it is about a lowly appointment. This suggests that those involved, including Preecha, knew this appointment was not above board.
Khaosod describes Preecha as “former commander of the Third Region Army and a brother of Gen. Prayuth. Preecha is currently a member of the junta and serves on its appointed legislative body.”These latter appointments caused some raised eyebrows and claims of nepotism, but The Dictator is, well, The Dictator.
The leaked letter “identified Patipat as a graduate of Naresuan University’s mass communications faculty. It did not explain his job description in the army, or why he was chosen for both the position and the lieutenancy other than noting that nothing in army regulations disqualified Patipat from serving.”
In a follow-up Khaosod story, Preecha “admitted … that he gave a job and army rank to his son,” and then went on to defend his actions, “saying it’s common practice in the military.”
Preecha’s explanation of his actions sounds like the comment of a Sino-Thai tycoon promoting a young son to vice president in the family-run conglomerate: “My son graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, and he has to work…. Now that there’s a vacant position, I put him to work in it. Many people in the army do it. It’s not like only my son does it.”
He refused to say more. As he put it, in the best traditions of a corrupt military: “That’s all for now.”
Preecha’s nepotism has caused critics to point to double standards: “Stop Hypocrisy in Thailand, which was the first to publicize the leaked memo, compared the letter to the junta’s gripe with nepotism in the previous government led by former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.” It recalls the anti-democrat’s claiming that the Shinawatra clan was “running the country like their family business.” It observes that “Today, they [the Chan-ocha family] do the very same thing.”
Exiled academic and Prayuth foe Somsak Jeamteerasakul is correct when he likens “the Chan-ochas to the Kittikachorns, the family of the junta that ruled the kingdom in the 1970s. Thanom Kittikachorn and his son Narong served as chairman and secretary-general of the ruling junta, respectively.” He reportedly added: “But Narong [at least] studied in the military academy … It’s not like he graduated with something totally unrelated and used his father’s status as prime minister’s brother to get himself into the military,” Somsak wrote on Facebook.
We expect The Dictator to be livid and to jump about a bit and then seek a cover-up. We might be wrong, but this is his form. As the junta indulges in double standards, corruption and nepotism it undermines its political position. That said, the junta retains the foundational support of the establishment suggesting that double standards, corruption and nepotism can further deepen as the charter referendum gets closer.