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Thai Army: Surayud fans winds of c
- Subject: Thai Army: Surayud fans winds of c
- From: suriya@xxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 05 Nov 1998 00:03:00
Subject: Thai Army: Surayud fans winds of change
November 4, 1998
by Kanjana Spindler
Surayud fans winds
Barely a month after taking over as the army commander-in-chief,
Gen Surayud Chulanont is gently fanning the winds of change in all
directions. But the big question remains: Will he be able to make the
changes stick, will he be able to shape, redefine, restructure and
reengineer the army in an enduring, quantifiable manner?
Since Thaitanic struck the iceberg of greed in July 1997, much has
been written about the need for change, for an end to corruption, for
transparency in all matters, for restructuring the economy and the
public sector. But what has really happened? It's all been much ado
After a year of words without action, the public, the long-suffering
silent majority, got really fed up. None of the Thaitanic culprits had
been prosecuted, let alone punished. Born out of this intense
frustration we have entered into a new era - the corruption explosion.
Emboldened and empowered by the spirit of the new constitution,
people have begun to turn on their masters. No deal is now secret, no
long-time, vested interest relationship sacred.
Suddenly we have turned the lights on. We are not surprised by the
pile of maggots we find, we knew they were there all the time. But we
are elated to see them squirming in the harsh light of public disclosure.
However, our elation may be short-lived. Corruption is a seamless
facet of everyday life in Thailand. Committees of public officials
collectively hide it. The paperwork is correct, the signatures
appropriate, the bidding procedures scrupulously followed. If only we
expended as much effort, as much creativity, as much intelligence on
productive activities, we could have achieved a good, sustainable life
for all our citizens.
Enter Gen Surayud. What are his chances of affecting real change in
the army? Collectively, the armed forces represent the most
impenetrable bastion of elite vested interest in Thailand today.
Thailand's modern history is a chronicle of the armed forces
attempting, unsuccessfully, to maintain their control over and
ownership of this country.
But driven back, almost, to within their barracks, the armed forces are
now in search of a new role, a new legitimacy, one more in tune with
these rapidly changing times. Leading this search is Gen Surayud who
has the intellectual, professional and ethical resources to at least
attempt such a Herculean task.
Acknowledging the realities of the present situation, Gen Surayud has
been quick to articulate a new, internal, four-point policy for his
* Conserve resources seriously, both time and money.
* Transparency in everything. Everything is subject to investigation and
everything must be ready to be investigated.
* Justice and fairness towards subordinates, particularly with reference
to transfers and promotions.
* Competence (professionalism) in all areas, taking into account the
It all looks fine on paper but what about implementation? Gen Surayud
is a realist but he is also totally committed to downsizing the army and
radically increasing its professionalism. He's not surprised by the wave
of corruption issues hitting the army because, he says, "it's part of the
process of a society in transition". In fact, he may welcome the
increasing public scrutiny as it will help his own sweeping reform plans
However, being a realist, he doesn't underestimate the challenges
ahead. "I've set myself a target. I know in so doing some people will
get hurt. But I'm prepared to be hurt as well."
* Kanjana Spindler is Assistant Editor, Editorial Pages,
© Copyright The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 1998
Last Modified: Wed, Nov 4, 1998
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