When Treason Prospers


” … the professional soldiers, members of that curious esoteric world which has so little contact with the civilian world, and works in such different ways. The non-professional soldier, the conscript or temporary officer, or in most cases the policeman, however heavily armed, tends to react much more like the civilians to whom he will return or among whom he operates. Separated from the rest of society by a life consisting (in peacetime) of fancy dress, instruction and practice, games and boredom, organized on the assumption that their members at all levels are generally rather stupid and always expendable, held together by the increasingly anomalous values of bravery, honour, contempt for and suspicion of civilians, professional armies tend almost by definition to ideological eccentricity (Eric Hobsbawm, Coup D’Etat in Revolutionaries, pp.258-64).”

Wassana Nanuam’s ‘From the Barracks’ column this week makes, once again, for fairly depressing reading: firstly, because it is clear that there are factions within the military (including Prem Tinsulanonda) who still see a role for yet another military coup and who have learned nothing from history or ethics; secondly, what is perhaps even worse, is that the motivation for the coup, among most of those who believe it should go ahead, is primarily greed and the desire for personal power and its prerequisites. Despite Prem’s viper-tongued claims that the country will fall into civil war and that there is a need for more troops in Isan (Prem’s vision for the future of Thailand: a boot stamping in the face of the poor forever), it is naked greed that motivates these individuals. Consider, for example, the 2006 junta: their first act (after cancelling the constitution etc) was to award themselves large salaries and start to pad the military budget again. Some, including Surayud Chulanont, the junta’s ‘prime minister,’ appears to have taken the opportunity to steal public land – he may have done so before, the dates in reports I have seen are a little ambiguous.