By Thai Newsroom Reporters
CORRUPTION AND PAYOFFS have become sort of a “culture of crooks in uniform” among those in the military and police circles and would continue to thrive under the powerful Sam Por trio, said Move Forward MPs today (Feb.16).
The powerful Sam Por refers to Prime Minister-cum-Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Deputy Prime Minister/former defence minister Prawit Wongsuwan and Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda, the first two of whom have already planned to contest an upcoming general election as partisan candidates for prime minister.
During a second day of censure debate without a subsequent vote of confidence at parliament, Move Forward MP Padipat Santipada charged that Prayut, Prawit and Anupong had ultimately failed to combat corruption in the army of which they all had earlier been in charge as army chief.
In particular, Prayut had repeatedly vowed to fight corruption in the military and police circles but practically failed to get things done as earlier pledged, the Move Forward MP said.
Padipat accused Prayut of turning blind eye and deaf ear to evident misconduct of some army officers involving kickbacks and extortions at the expense of the taxpayer’s money allocated for army welfare and construction projects.
The army, navy and air force as well as the police had not only been riddled with embezzlement and bribery scandals over mega-million-baht arms and equipment procurement projects but payoff rackets preying on their non-commissioned soldiers and civilians, the opposition said.
Padipat cited the 2020 tragic event in which an army lieutenant colonel who was found to have extorted money involving an army housing project in Nakhon Ratchasima from the army sergeant major, namely Jakkapan Thomma, who went berserk shooting dead 30 people and wounding 58 others was given a token disciplinary penalty of seven-day detention at the army barracks.
Neither did then-army chief Apirak Kongsompong nor Prayut as defence minister take any responsibility for the historic massacre, Padipat said.
Move Forward MP Pijarn Chaopattanawong said Prayut had neglected his duty as defence minister who could have held certain navy commanding officers accountable for last December’s sinking of HTMS Sukhothai corvette off Prachuap Khiri Khan which claimed 24 fatalities among the sailors with five others unaccounted for.
Pijarn charged that the navy process for repair and maintenance of the corvette had been so riddled with corruption and kickbacks involving certain commanding officers that the navy ship’s conditions were far from seaworthy, thus forcing it to capsize and sink in a stormy sea.
The MP commented HTMS Sukhothai would not have sunk to the bottom of the sea if the captain of the corvette had not been ordered to brave the six-metre-high tides to sail across the Gulf of Thailand to Sattahip naval base.
“The culture of crooks in uniform would continue to thrive and the Korat shoot-out massacre might possibly be repeated whilst any military or police reform schemes would never bear fruit as long as the Sam Por remains in power,” Padipat said.
The premier-cum-defence minister did not respond to the MPs’ barrages launched against him and others over the military and police corruption scandals during the censure debate and delegated Deputy Defence Minister Chaicharn Changmongkol who merely read out prepared messages and pledged without elaborating to fix things as alleged.
Move Forward MP Pijarn Chaopattanawong speaking during the censure debate today, Feb. 16. 2023. Top photo: Thai Rath, Front Page photo: Matichon
Insert: Move Forward MP Padipat Santipada slamming a “culture of crooks in uniform” during the censure debate. Photo: Thai Rath.