Further updated: Reflections on Korat murders II
Gen Apirat Kongsompong is now seeking to deflect criticism over the Korat mass murder away from the Army.
He gave a long news conference where he stated: “Do not blame the army. If you need to blame someone, blame me. I accept all criticisms and thoughts because I am the commanding officer of the army…”. He added, however, “that he would not resign despite calls for him to do so.”
Moreover, he made the claim that the shooter was “not an army officer…. The minute he [opened fire] on civilians he became a criminal and was a soldier no more…”
Given pictures of himself opening fire on civilians (above), we guess he’s making the distinction between soldiers who go rogue and those who do as they are ordered. But that, too, is only partially true as unresolved cases of murderous action like Chaiyapoom Pasae suggest that the military and its officers do indeed get away with murder. And then we could mention 1973, 1976, 1992, Tak Bai and many more such murderous attacks on civilians involving the military.
Gen Apirat also contradicted Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and himself in earlier reports, saying that “safety protocols around armouries were ‘up to standards’,” adding: “I guarantee that the safety protocols are up to standards.”
The families of the victims of Sgt Jakkrapanth’s murders might have another view.
Update 1: The Bangkok Post states that an emotional Apirat “apologised for a soldier’s murderous rampage.” It also reports that the “army chief admitted the shooter was maltreated by his supervisor and said he [Apirat] had already terminated many unsound “welfare” projects, some of which involved middlemen.”
There are so many corrupt practices in the military that they are normal. One we recently heard of was the channeling of military salaries to commanding officers who let conscripts off duty after their initial training. Recall how vehement the brass is in opposing the end of conscription and think of the millions of baht that would not flow up the line. The “welfare” makes generals wealthy.
Update 2: An updated Post report states:
Army chief Apirat Kongsompong has vowed to terminate unsound internal army projects, after shady transactions were raised as a possible motive behind a soldier’s shooting spree in Nakhon Ratchasima that left 30 dead and 58 wounded….
The army chief admitted the shooter was maltreated by his commanding officer and the officer’s relatives, and admitted there were many “unsound” projects, including for welfare housing, loans, and projects which involved cooperation between military units and merchants.
Gen Apirat said he had already terminated some of these projects, adding this was the first step in sorting out problems that had plagued the army for a long time.
He attacked critics:
“There are people who criticise the army. I urge them not to blame the army … because the army is a sacred organisation … Blame me — General Apirat”, he said.
A major problem is exactly this: the brass consider the Army “sacred” and, by definition, inviolable and above the law, not to mention the people. Reform has been impossible.