BANGKOK — Army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong on Tuesday transferred an army colonel from his post in a self-declared move to crack down on corruption within the force.
In an apparent stunt for the cameras, Apirat signed the order in front of the shrine dedicated to King Taksin the Great while he was touring the Navy Headquarters. Turning to the reporters, Apirat said he’s dedicated to ending exploitation of low-ranking servicemen in the army – one of the factors that allegedly led to a mass shooting that killed 29 people recently.
“I don’t care whose men they belong to,” Apirat said, adding that other officers who commit wrongdoing will also be transferred to inactive posts or removed from the service.
Apirat said the unnamed colonel was implicated by an anonymous complaint channel he set up. The colonel was reportedly based in the 2nd Army Region, the same area where a disgruntled soldier went on the shooting rampage after he was reportedly cheated by his commanding officer in a land deal.
Apirat’s much publicized drive to fight internal corruption came after intense criticism in the wake of the mass killings. He also signed an agreement yesterday granting the Treasury Department an oversight over properties owned by the army in a bid to promote transparency.
The MOU allows the department to manage some of the army’s properties including golf courses, petrol stations, markets, boxing stadiums, and resorts. These facilities typically offer discounts for soldiers and their families. The Treasury Department is also tasked with ensuring that the proceeds go to welfare funds for soldiers in need.
Transparency activist Srisuwan Janya welcomed the move as a good beginning in the gargantuan task of reforming the army. Srisuwan said profits made by the army-run facilities risks being siphoned away from the state coffer without civilian oversight.
“They should have done it a long time ago. But let me praise the army chief for doing so,” Srisuwan said. He added that the MOU should also be released in full to the public.
But another anti-corruption campaigner, Veera Somkwamkid, fears that the move could eventually prompt the army to hand over their businesses to third parties or private investors to avoid scrutiny instead.
“I don’t think this is the original idea of Apirat… The benefits may go to big businesses,” Veera said.