ASEAN Defense: New Deep Rooted Seed of Discontent Planted in Thai Military

The Thai military: A System Failure?

By Stingray, Thai Intel’s national security journalist

Matichon, a local Thai independent newspaper, just reported a few days ago of the reshuffling of middle ranking soldiers by the new Thai army chief, Prayuth. Matichon said it was a purge to elevate those soldiers who were active in the Red Shirt crackdown that saw about 100 killed.

The Matichon report is similar to the report in the Thailand Political Prisoner Blog. Both are also backed up by another similar report in the Wall Street Journal-by a security unit based in Bangkok. The Bangkok Post also ran a similar report and analysis.

Therefore, one conclusion is clear, Prayuth, as Bangkok Post reported as being a “Hot Head” that is staunchly anti-Red Shirt, had elevated those who are loyal to him and would follow his orders to the detail-to a great many of “Force Commanding” position.

The Political Prisoner Thailand Blog Wrote:

Some time ago, PPT stated that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, shoe-horned into place by the military, palace and particular business interests, had been busy purging the ranks of the military, bureaucracy and police of any elements it considers pro-Thaksin Shinawatra. About a month after that, at the end of September, we posted regarding a press story on the annual reshuffle of provincial governors that was targeting those provincial governors thought to have failed in containing the March-May red shirt uprising. That report noted that: “Most of those [new] governors are obedient.”

In the Bangkok Post it is reported that the new army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha “has wasted no time in wielding his power by ordering a reshuffle of 229 senior officers. The rejig has led to the transfer of regimental commanders reportedly linked with the red shirt movement.” The report adds that the “latest transfers are viewed as a move to ensure Gen Prayuth has reliable subordinates who can follow his orders to the letter. It was reported some military units did not deal with the red shirt protesters as he wanted.”

One group that has been targeted is those officers with links to Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh. Readers will remember that Chavalit was one of those called in by the regime’s Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations and accused of links to an anti-monarchy movement.

Meanwhile, some of those who were responsible for aggressive actions against the red shirts have been promoted, including “Col Apirat Kongsompong, commander of the 11th Infantry Regiment (King’s Guards) which played a key role in dealing with red shirt demonstrators…” and Colonel Kiat Srinaka of the Queen’s Guards and “the influential military clique called Burapha Payak” who “played a key role in the clash with red shirt demonstrators at the Khok Wua intersection on April 10.”

It seems that Prayuth considers former commander General Anupong Paojinda did not go far enough in rooting out red shirt sympathizers in the ranks. Prayuth will be at the top for 4 years and sees the political struggle against the red shirts and anti-monarchists as his most significant duty. Forget all the talk of professionalism and external threats that is normally associated with modern militaries. The Thai army is a political force that has spent almost all of its active life as an internal security force. That means repression has been its main game.

There are two possible outcomes here of the purge:

First, those soldiers who were alienated out from the Prayuth sphere of influence-either close ranks to Prayuth side or second, these soldiers alienate themselves out of that sphere further. Fundamentally however, the polarization and factionalism of the Thai military has increased.

The Thai military, as a political tool of the elite rule of Thailand, sits on several underlying philosophy that are held in a fragile balance.

There is no doubt, most Thai soldiers are loyal to the royalism-but that is to a different level. On the other hand-other philosophy do exists-such as that of the democratic soldiers and the professional soldiers-for example. Other philosophy, also exists.

In analyzing the shift in this fragile balance-as a result of this strong injection of the pull towards extreme royalism-impact on the overall balance in the Thai military is difficult to pinpoint and measured-as we are dealing with the middle ranking soldiers-in many post in this latest purge-that comes on top of many previous purges.

The underlying rationale of Anupong and key people in the royalist system, in elevating Prayuth-is that Thailand’s royalism is in a transition phase, the Thai society itself is fractured, and global forces are in turmoil-and thus a force concentration inside the military is needed to provide a reliable and certain core to carry Thailand through-and keep the objective of the Thai national security in tact-and that is to maintain the royalist elite rule of Thailand.

Thai Intel and Thai Intel readers will just have to sit back, relax and watch the developments.

(But then again, that does not mean we can not have some fun watching some sexy chicks along the way)