BANGKOK — Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit said he is not convinced that the army and the military-backed government is capable or willing to carry out reforms of the armed forces.
Speaking at a rally that drew about 200 people on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, the opposition leader said the public should back the party’s effort to implement the reforms. The call came just days before Thanathorn’s party faces a possible disbandment due to an ongoing legal challenge.
“If you want real reform, let us help scrutinize the military,” Thanathorn said on Saturday night. “This is the best opportunity to modernize the armed forces.”
Although army chief Apirat Kongsompong pledged to reform the army “within 90 days,” Thanathorn urged the general to back up his claim by taking a step toward transparency.
He said the army should reveal the names of all retired generals still living at taxpayers-funded army residences, and all financial details of the army’s business deals, such as its investment in golf courses, radios, and TV channels.
“The armed forces must be reformed. This is the best timing, “ Thanathorn said. “We can’t let them do it by themselves… and ensure that this is not just a theatrical act.”
Other Future Forward leaders who spoke at the rally include Pongskorn Rodchompoo, a former lieutenant general, who said the mass shooting by a rogue soldier that killed 29 people over the weekend of Feb. 8 – 9 highlighted the army’s failure to protect the citizens.
Lt. Gen. Pongskorn questioned how the gunman managed to loot heavy weaponry from his base’s arsenal without intervention from the garrison for 40 minutes before he stole a military jeep and headed to the city center, where he shot more people.
“Why were they quiet for 40 minutes? Why didn’t they do anything?” Pongskorn said.
Party-List MP Wiroj Lakkanaadisorn also criticized Gen. Apirat’s call on low-ranking soldiers to submit complaints of mistreatment to him directly, on the condition that they identify themselves by names and ranks.
Wiroj said the measure does not offer enough protection for whistleblowers. He also said army regulations stating that the complaints can only be lodged 24 hours after the incident took place are unrealistic.
“By then the evidence would have been destroyed,” Wiroj said.