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Army to keep low profile
November 29, 1998
Army to keep low
Foreign Ministry to resume leading role
The army will retreat to the back seat and let the Foreign Affairs
Ministry resume its role in dealing with neighbouring countries,
especially Burma, an army source said yesterday.
Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Surayud Chulanont has made it a
policy that diplomacy, not personal connections, will play a leading
role in foreign affairs, said the source.
Under his leadership, the Foreign Affairs Ministry will take charge of
international affairs while the army provides necessary support and
assistance, said the source.
Gen Surayud's policy constitutes a sharp contrast to that adopted by
his predecessors, especially Gen Chettha Thanajaro.
Thai foreign policy towards Burma, or the lack of it, has been
characterised by personal relationship between military chiefs of the
two countries. General Chettha, for instance, usually used his close
connections with Burmese military leaders and his personal aides to
solve the problems with Burma. This has led to the Foreign Ministry
The Directorate of Intelligence staff reportedly worked as
coordinating officers and took care of meeting schedules and luggage,
said the source, adding that they were left in the dark about what was
going on during the meetings.
He said the directorate has few records of agreements made between
Thailand and Burma during the past two years and has to rely on
newspaper clippings. But the directorate will now take back its
responsibility, the source said.
The change of policy will also help restore sour relationships between
the army and the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
"Under Gen Chettha's leadership, the Foreign Affairs Ministry barely
had a say in relations with Burma. There was some hard feeling
because the ministry felt it was being overlooked.
"Although it can't be denied that the close relationship between Gen
Chettha and Burmese military leaders have made things go smoother
and easier, it has spoiled the system," the source said.
Gen Chettha's role in solving the problems with Burma has been
remarkable, said the source. The ex-army commander had persuaded
Burmese military leaders to release some 600 Thai inmates and
secured better cooperation in the fisheries business.
He is scheduled to visit Burma next month as an adviser to the interior
minister to seek cooperation in combatting narcotics along the
© Copyright The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 1998
Last Modified: Sun, Nov 29, 1998
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