In the past week two military-oriented media conferences were held, one in Bangkok and the other in Canberra. A quick look at them reveals the underlying mindset of the military in both countries.
In Bangkok, the police and defence chiefs stood together to announce that they would work “with” the duly elected government of the day. Note the word “with”, not “for” the duly elected government of the day.
It may a pedantic point, but I think it underscores the mindset of the military in Thailand. In a true democracy such a media conference would have been totally redundant because the military knows it is subservient to government.
In Canberra, Defence Minister Christopher Pyne held a media conference to announce the appointment of the new Air Force chief, Air Marshal Mel Hupfield. Other senior military chiefs were present.
At the end of the announcement, the media immediately began asking the defence minister politically loaded questions, particularly in the context of the pending federal election. The Chief of Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, quickly stepped forward, whispered something in Pyne’s ear, then indicated to all the defence personnel that they should leave the room, which they did, accompanied by General Campbell.
The message was clear. Military personnel are not to be used as political props, particularly in media conferences during election fever, signalling a very clear separation of the roles of government and defence forces.
I leave it to your readers to judge which is the professional and proper stance.