Promoting Crime and Defending Impunity
To draw up a list of the nefarious historical characters who’ve been promoted after engaging in oppressive acts on behalf of the various governing Thai regimes would be a lengthy and drawn out process. What is clear is that from Sarit Thanarat to Tanin Kraivixien, those who are willing to commit the grossest anti-democratic violations do so knowing they can act with the greatest impunity.
Fast-forward to 2010 and this synchronous and mutually-dependent culture of entrenched impunity and promotion to higher office not only still persists but has been increasingly ramped up during the post-crackdown period.
Numerous army officers connected to the notorious April/May Bangkok Massacres have already been promoted to higher positions within the labyrinthine hierarchies of the Thai military. Deputy army chief Prayuth Chanocha – a hardline senior army man seen as being most closely linked to the elite and a driving force behind the violent oppression of the Red Shirts – has now cemented his appointment as the new army chief, a position he will take up in the next few weeks. Given Prayuth’s lack of commitment to democracy and accountability, that he should be placed in such a powerful position is exceedingly worrying for anyone who considers reconciliation as necessary for Thailand’s progress.
Other figures such as Lt. General Daphong Rattanasuwan, seen as one of the tactical masterminds of the April/May Bangkok Massacres, have been promoted along with, more astonishingly, his wife (who is also an army officer). Even Anupong Paojinda’s (the outgoing army chief) sister – as if one act of extravagant nepotism wasn’t enough – has been bumped up the hierarchy a notch or two.
However, the most shocking recent promotion has been that of police Lt. General Somkid Boonthanom to the position of assistant national police chief. According to today’s Bangkok Post, Lt Gen. Somkid has been “indicted along with four other active and former police officers by the Office of the Attorney-General on Jan12 in connection with the disappearance in 1990 of Saudi businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaili.”
That a police officer should even be allowed to serve with such a serious charge hanging over him, never mind being promoted to such a senior role, is just further evidence of a government and regime who lack any notion of legal accountability.
And who was brought out to defend Somkid’s promotion? None other than the Democrat Party’s Deputy PM Suthep – a man appointed, not elected, to his position, who had to resign as an MP in order to deflect numerous corruption charges and who is now head of CRES, the body directly responsible for implementing the crackdown which led to the April/May Bangkok Massacres.
In short, Dep. PM Suthep has to defend the very system that has granted him his own position and the impunity that comes along with it. Promotion and appointment within the Thai regime’s hierarchy isgeared only to one’s willingness to serve the system. Ability and accountability have nothing to do with it.
These promotions, in the face of ongoing international demands for a full and fair investigation of the Bangkok Massacres, serve to demonstrate the ruling elite’s commitment to the continuation of perpetrating crimes and unspeakable violence against its own citizenry.