6 June 2024

Former election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn has offered some advice to Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang regarding military reform, suggesting that he should not follow everything told to him by the military’s top brass, following their informal meeting on Sunday at Government House.

The first area is the procurement of armaments. Somchai said that the issue is not about whether to purchase or not, but is about whether the armaments to be procured are useful and worth the expenditure and whether the procurement process is transparent.

The second area is mandatory or voluntary conscription. He said the issue at stake is not the method of enlistment, but is about the abuse of the conscripts, by making them to run errands and do chores at the houses of generals and the exploitation of junior officers by their seniors.

Downsizing the military is not about reducing the number of redundant generals alone, said Somchai, adding that the defence minister must also look into the perks and privileges enjoyed by the generals, which are different from senior civil servants, such as the use of Mercedes Benz S500 as their service provided vehicles.

The last thing to look at is the “secret fund”, of which the military has always resisted parliamentary scrutiny and refused to disclose, claiming national security, said Somchai. On top of the national budget allocated each year for the military, he pointed out that the three armed forces also receive extra and more opaque funding.