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Soldiers banned from canvassing
- Subject: Soldiers banned from canvassing
- From: suriya@xxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 02 Nov 1998 21:46:00
November 2, 1998
Surayud moves to get army out of politics
Soldiers will no longer be allowed to act as canvassers for political
parties at the next general election and if any are found doing so they
and their unit commanders will be held responsible, Army
Commander-in-Chief Surayud Chulanont said in an exclusive interview
with the Bangkok Post.
Gen Surayud said that this was part of his policy to disengage the
army, once the dominant political force, from Thai politics and forge a
truly professional military force.
He admitted there are a lot of soldiers of all ranks who act as
canvassers or use their influence and power to ensure a favourable
election outcome for political parties, especially in the Northeast where
he had commanded the Second Army Region.
"I know who these officers are and which parties they canvass for.
They are of all ranks - generals, colonels, lieutenant-colonels, majors,
lieutenants and even sergeants. They will be called in for a talk. Their
unit commanders will be told to take care of the matter, and if they
can't the unit commanders will be held responsible," he said.
He added: "I don't want soldiers to act as canvassers or to use force
to threaten anyone. I have ordered all army region commanders to
watch over their subordinates. If they can't enforce it they will have to
During the last general election the Democrat Party had complained
that senior military officers were using their power to threaten
Democrat canvassers to switch their allegiance to the New Aspiration
Party of former army chief Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.
Gen Surayud said that he has no interest in running for office and will
not enter politics after retirement. However, this does not mean that
soldiers should take no interest in politics.
"Soldiers must support the democratic system of government. They
have to cast their ballots and take part in politics. The military will
allow all political parties to campaign in military areas. But soldiers
cannot get involved in politics, they cannot become canvassers," he
He said that he did not resign from the Senate to make the point that
he will not get involved in politics, but because he needed to put all his
efforts into running the army and could no longer spare time to attend
The new army chief said that his main concern is to streamline the
army, restructure manpower, cut military spending in this time of
economic crisis, cease arms purchases and in the long run try to
produce its own armaments.
"We admit that we have too much personnel, especially generals. We
have to lay out a new manpower structure in the form of a pyramid.
There should be fewer people at the top administrative level and a
proportionate base of manpower. However, it will take time, about 10
years, and we will be able to cut our forces by 25%," he said.
He joked: "We can't just sack a whole lot of people, otherwise my
subordinates will shoot me!"
On the contentious issue of the restructuring of the command line of
the three armed forces, Gen Surayud said that personally he wanted
the defence minister to issue orders through the National Security
Council in which all the commanders are represented.
"That way when the defence minister issues an order, each of us can
just go ahead and carry it out. At present the minister has to give his
orders one at a time, wasting half an hour on each of us," he said. But
he stressed that he has not put forward this idea to anyone yet.
On the alleged irregularities in the renewing of the contract of army
television Channel 7 which has been extended another 25 years though
there is still eight years left in the old contract, Gen Surayud admitted
that this may be illegal and could breach the new constitution which
stated that an independent agency will have to be created to run state
media and ensure transparency.
However, a law will have to be legislated to put this into effect and the
army is ready to amend the new contract so that it is in keeping with
the charter and other relevant new laws.
Gen Surayud said that he has asked his predecessor Gen Chettha
Thanajaro about the extension and was told that this was done to
enable Channel 7 to enter the stock market where there is a regulation
that requires the concession for the station to remain effective for at
least 20 years.
The running of all army radio and television stations will be made
transparent and accountable and both internal and external checks will
be made. However, the army still wants to keep some radio stations
as well as TV Channel 5 for security reasons.
"The army needs its own media in time of emergency and we have to
think about psychological and security work, especially Channel 5,
where we have a global network linking the rest of the country and the
whole world," he said.
Gen Surayud, who was not even a contender for the army chief post
initially, said that he was very surprised by the appointment which he
only knew of a few days before it was announced.
"I expected to become only army chief-of-staff and that would have
made me quite happy," he said.
He said that Gen Sampao Chusri, assistant army chief, who was a
strong contender and a former classmate at Chulachomklao Royal
Military Academy, has no problems with him.
"I and Gen Sampao are friends. There may have been news of conflict
between us since people were cheering each of us on but when the
royal appointment came everything ended there. We can work
together, no problems," he said.
Asked about the possibility that a new government may elect to
change the army chief, Gen Surayud replied: "I will do my duty. I am
not attached to the post. The new defence minister will be my new
commander and he can put me anywhere. Whether I stay or how long
I stay would be up to him."
© Copyright The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 1998
Last Modified: Mon, Nov 2, 1998
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