Thai army

Let’s talk about political reform (4) Reduce the role of the military

Numnual Yapparat & Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The two main activities of the Thai army are to kill pro-democracy citizens and to tear up democratic constitutions by staging military coups.

The army has committed crimes against civilians again and again, but none of the generals have ever been punished. Most disgusting is the way that those generals who staged coups, are constantly invited by the media to give opinions about democracy. In fact they are interviewed by the media on all aspects of Thai politics. If the murderous generals are not charged with crimes against the people, how can we establish justice? The military is the main barrier to democracy.

Today, they are not yet staging a coup, but they refuse orders from an elected government to ensure that elections take place. They are a law unto themselves.

In the process of “political reform” we need to challenge and weaken the power of the military in all aspects of society. We need to raise questions in public about whether we should have a military at all.

If we have a military, it should be drastically reduced in size. We should abolish military service. We should retire most of the generals without the usual retirement perks and abolish the post of “commander in chief of the army”. The military should be firmly under the command of the elected government of the day.

Given that the majority live in poverty and need improvements to their living conditions, we should cut the bloated military budget and use that money to invest in the basic needs of the people, such as schools, hospitals and modern transportation.

We must ask more important questions. Why does the military own so much of the broadcasting media? They use their power over the media to spread their anti-democratic propaganda and also to line the pockets of the generals with the huge profits. The military should be excluded from controlling the media. The generals should also be removed from the boards of state enterprises.

Pua Thai, the Democrats, the middle classes, the NGOs and the top academics, who are now all shouting about “reform”, will never raise demands to reform the military. The task must lie with pro-democracy activists and progressive red shirts.

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