BANGKOK — The army on Wednesday announced the formal launch of a complaint channel in an effort to crack down on exploitation of low-ranking servicemen within the force – but anonymity is not an option.
Starting yesterday, deputy army chief Nattapol Nakpanich said soldiers of all ranks can now report any abuse of power by their commanding officers directly to the army chief via a 24-hour hotline, which was set up after a disgruntled soldier killed 29 people in the wake of a business dispute with his own CO.
“The new hotline will report directly to the army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong,” Gen. Nattapol said. “Please rest assured that the army is doing our best. If the matter falls beyond our jurisdiction, we will transfer the case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.”
He added, “This is not a public stunt as accused by politicians.”
In order to file a complaint, the soldiers will be required to give out their name, rank, and affiliating unit in their complaints to prevent false accusations, but the general said the handling of complaints will be made by a private contractor who reports only to the army chief.
“The hotline is operated by an experienced private contractor. Calls will be recorded and submitted in a sealed letter to the army chief,” he said. “I ask all the commanding officers to be assured that the army command has enough discretion to decide which case is genuine, and which case is harassment.”
The call center, which came under the slogan “Everything is secret, everything reaches the army chief,” is part of the renewed drive led by Apirat to combat malfeasance within the force.
The campaign came at the heels of public anger over media reports that the gunman in Korat’s mass shooting was cheated by his commander in a land deal just before he went on the rampage.
On Tuesday, Gen. Apirat transferred an army colonel to an inactive post after he was implicated of unspecified misconduct by an anonymous complaint, though it is not certain whether the complaint was made through the new hotline.
Deputy army chief Nattapol also gave a deadline for retired army officers to move out from their official residences. However, he repeated that exceptions were made to some of the 100 officers who are staying in taxpayers-funded houses.
“We told them to move out within March,” he said. “But please understand that Thai society is flexible, so we have to extend some of the deadlines on a case by case basis. For example, those soldiers who worked in border provinces who can’t afford to own a house after they retired.”
When a reporter asked why high-paying officers cannot afford their own house, Nattapol said it is a personal matter.
“You should ask that question to them individually,” he said, adding that their extended stay does not affect the quota granted to those lower down the ranks because they’re assigned to different housing schemes.