As PPT noted a few weeks ago, part of the motivation for some of the high-level promotions in the military was about political alliances with the Privy Council, protecting the regime and maintaining the anti-democratic and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra and anti-red shirt political alliance.
While this has promoted some social media speculation of a rift between General Prayuth Chan-ocha and General Prawit Wongsuwan, and hence the Hawaii flights scandal, those promoted have talked about their takes on their new roles.
The Bangkok Post reports on the views of new army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart. Even for a hardened military thug, his view of the strategic and threat environment is quite surprising.
He is seemingly unconcerned about, say, the South China Sea conflict, nuclear weapons in the region, border security, the US-China competition or even the military’s desire for new military kit. No, his consuming concern is domestic “political violence.”
According to the Post, General Chalermchai “told a briefing at the army’s headquarters … possible violent attacks were his concern because only a handful of the stolen army weapons had been recovered.”
Using an oxymoron, he claimed that “Army intelligence” was telling him and the top brass of “the possibility of violence because there were movements behind it…”. He said a “large number” of the “stolen” weapons “remain unaccounted for…”. Army data has it that 57 weapons were not found and these are driving the Army boss’s plans for future “political violence.”
Some observations on this. First, most of these weapons were abandoned by the military during the events of April and May 2010. Second, it is known that weapons illegally sold by corrupt officers and simply “missing” from military inventories far outweigh this number. Third, Thailand is awash with guns, and this 57 makes no difference to that. Finally, it is the military that is responsible for most of Thailand’s political violence over a very long period.
General Chalermchai is really saying is that, like the junta itself, he terrified by any form of political opposition, even if some of the alleged political plots are manufactured by the military and regime. He is Army boss because his political views align with those of The Dictator in viewing red shirts as the main threat to the regime and its royalist realm.
Also at the Bangkok Post, new 1st Army commander and vehement anti-red shirt Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong has added something to the social media speculation that there are some in the military unhappy with The Dictator and his regime by declaring that his main job is to ensure there are no counter-coups. Indeed, the Post states: “The appointment of Lt Gen Apirat reflects Gen Prayut’s intention to prevent a counter coup that may arise if he stays in power.”
Handpicked and trusted by The Dictator, Apirat has “pledged to prevent coups while maintaining peace and order and implementing the orders of the prime minister, the defence minister and the army commander.” He added on his loyalty to the regime:
My mission is to protect the monarchy with my life, and I will strictly follow the instructions of the prime minister, defence minister and the army chief and support the government without question….
With these appointments, the regime and in particular, The Dictator, have hardened their political position, reinforced its capacity for ruthless repression and marked out what they hope will be a counter-coup free space.