The Nation



Army manoeuvres?

Army Commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha's attempt at mediation between the government and the anti-government protesters is to be applauded. But not so Prayuth's declaration that the Army is neutral in the current civil unrest.

In a true democracy, the military is an arm of government and should be subservient to it as long as the orders it issues are legal and constitutional.

By declaring the Army neutral, Prayuth is in fact negating this tacit contract between government and military and saying he is prepared to disobey or ignore orders from his political masters. The logical corollary to this is that Prayuth is in fact aiding the insurrection.

This is analogous to former Army chief Anupong Paochinda's insistence on "neutrality" while Samak Sundaravej's People's Power Party government was in place. He called the 2008 yellow-shirt occupation of Government House and airports and the red-shirt storming of the Asean conference matters of politics only.

In their 2009 book "Thaksin", Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker claimed Anupong's position was far from neutral: "Anupong's neutrality was effectively withdrawal of services from the PPP government ... undermining the PPP's legitimacy to govern." Thus Samak's government became a footnote in history.

The Army might contain many "watermelons", but it doesn't take a mastermind to work out what colour shirt General Prayuth wears beneath his Army greens, as even the most cursory reading of his military pedigree will reveal.

David Brown


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