Reforming the Military


One of the more important steps towards achieving a more democratic state is reducing the influence of the powerful, unelected, opaque interests who are willing and able to act against the wishes of the people (i.e. against a democratically-elected government). One of the most important of these institutions is the military service.

Few independent observers would disagree that the military occupies an unusually high proportion of the budget for a country that fights so few wars, that there is an inordinate proportion of high-ranking officers and that the equipment purchased by the military seems to have little relevance for either its day-to-day activities or its strategic role (e.g. was there ever really a need for an aircraft carrier, especially one that has never been used?). Further, if the military forces are to be used against the people of the country (whether in the southern border region, on the streets of Bangkok or quietly in Isaan or Chiang Mai), then it should be a professional, accountable force which has promised to serve the state and its government. In other words, this means ending the draft.

Concerting the forces to a professional standing would be conducted in conjunction with a thorough, properly independent review of the purpose and scope of the military and restructuring of existing units into formations that can meet the needs of the country and is equipped appropriately. It is clear, for example, that the military needs to be available for a variety of responses on the Burmese border, so there is a need for helicopters and rapidly-deployed and highly-skilled troops. There is a need for the navy to act to protect refugees and treat them according to the law, while being able to act against pirates, illegal fishing boats and the like. Again, helicopters will be required, along with rapid craft and modern navigational and radar and sonar equipment. Other duties might be more sensibly devised in conjunction with ASEAN allies and some key external allies (e.g. the USA and perhaps China).

Simultaneously, an amnesty might be issued for all those military officials who might be found accidentally to be occupying state resources in one form or another. If any money is recovered this way it might be used  to pay for a modern new military service and the need to replace the draft with civilian training and job creation services for those poorer youngsters who are happy to take the draft in order to learn a craft.

However, this is all wishful thinking under the current political settlement.