Wassana on Anupong In her column in the Bangkok Post this week, Khun Wassana Nanuam looks at the career of General Anupong Paojinda, who has held the post of head of the army under two democratically-elected prime ministers and two military-installed ‘prime ministers.’ She attributes his comparative longevity to the continued power of the military in the Thai political system and the need in the post September 19th 2006 world to placate the military, particularly its top brass which displays an inordinate sense of entitlement, status and desire to wield power presumably (she does not make this point but I do) so as to be able to distribute resources to reinforce power networks. Anupong of course was initially appointed by former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, the first politician to be democratically elected and to serve a full term, then the first to be re-elected, then the first to establish a single party government. Anupong turned against Thaksin as part of the coup even though he had been appointed as a former classmate and the hope that he would be loyal to the state. In fact, Anupong then exposed his own character fully when, with the democratically-elected government imperiled by the heavily-armed PAD mob (and its celebrity sponsors) which had occupied Government House and the airports, he declared that the army would not obey the government but would be ‘neutral.’ Fortunately, Anupong is due to retire this year and one of his four hand-picked cronies is likely to succeed him (since interfering with this process by democratically-elected politicians will almost certainly bring another coup). Interestingly, Khun Wassana observes in concluding: “While nobody knows for sure who the next army commander will be, one thing that is certain is that the new top soldier will have to be braver and more committed than Gen Anupong, not in clinging to the seat of power but in bringing more professionalism to the army, as he will be in for a really tough time.” It is true that the red-shirt pro-democracy movement appears to have resolved to shine a light on the military’s activities by rallying outside some of their very numerous bases. The inquiry into the GT200 ‘bomb detection’ devices is also likely to open a can of worms concerning the methods adopted in military purchasing, which the apparent desire to buy yet more Gripen jet fighters will, it is to be hoped, exacerbate.