Army deserves all the current praise it is getting

opinion November 11, 2011 00:00

By The Nation

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As politicians fight amongst themselves, only the military has shown real commitment to helping flood victims and ending the crisis



 

The Yingluck government is on the back foot. The Democrat Party is not getting any more popular with the grassroots rural people. The yellow shirts are still quiet. Fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra is apparently not pushing any political agenda.
It appears the flood disaster has subdued most players in the Thai political crisis. All but one, to be exact. The Thai Army, with its active role in rescue and relief operations, has emerged the only winner from this disaster so far, receiving praise from all corners.
Compliments being given to the Army are not a result of political manoeuvring. Soldiers have won the hearts of the Thai public through real hard work and sacrifice. While politicians keep up their petty fighting over who is to blame and who is blocking floodwaters, soldiers keep their heads down and hard at work, only concentrating on their immediate job.
The Army has gone about its relief and rescue operations despite not being fully trusted by the Pheu Thai government. The lack of leadership from Prime Minister Yingluck does not help propel a good image of the government during this difficult time. 
Although the red-shirt politicians and their leaders have managed to organise to serve their political purposes, they have failed to organise relief to support the flood victims, even though many of those inundated are their political supporters.
In the meantime, bad blood can still be seen through stinging comments from Pheu Thai MP Jatuporn Promphan, who until recently kept inflaming speculation about a military coup. Thaksin’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam has also visited Thailand in an apparent bid to take the former government and Thai military to task over last year’s political violence.
None of the political attacks on the Army have created a big impact. The floods have caught everyone off guard, particularly the likes of Jatuporn and Amsterdam. Any attempt to paint the men in uniform as a bloodthirsty and dictatorial political element have gone against the backdrop of troops being the first to reach villagers in urgent need of help.
Opinion polls have confirmed who is being vindicated and who is being perceived as playing politics. Most surveys place soldiers as the biggest heroes so far in this flood crisis. Politicians, predictably, rank below volunteers and the media. This, however, is unlikely to prevent political division from rearing its ugly head once the country becomes dry again.
Army officers have not done anything beyond the norm to deserve the accolades. These officials, especially the low-ranking officers, are simply doing their duty fastidiously. Clips on TV networks show a low-ranking officer refusing to accept a gift from an appreciative flood victim. The officer told her it was his duty. 
In fact, if every demographic group performed its duty, the results would be more satisfying. Political leaders are supposed to steer a course for the country. Politicians are supposed to take care of their constituencies. Law enforcement officers are supposed to ensure that people do not take unfair advantage of flood victims during this tough time. 
What will happen after the water recedes is not easy to predict. As soldiers perform heroics during this hard time, they have been spared from the gravitational pull of politics. In other words, they have acquired an immunity that was not there before. 
How long this immunity will last depends on the Army itself as much as the political players who have been all but tamed by this flood disaster.

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