The military’s function is to protect the nation from foreign invaders, not to police the citizens. It’s the job of the police. This should be non-negotiable.
Yesterday, Army Chief General Narongphan Jitkaewthae, who had been mostly silent on Thailand’s political affairs, finally spoke. The army chief echoed the sentiment long-held by Thailand’s military: we will do whatever we want, whenever we want, and however we want.
General Narongphan admitted the men in yellow shirts and military haircuts are army men. They were there to protect the Grand Palace on 8 November when the Ratsadon Movement marched to the palace to submit their “letters to the king.”
At every major protest, hundreds of army men in yellow shirts stand watch.
They have assisted the police in setting up barricades and pushing back the protestors. They aren’t the police. They aren’t in uniform. They wear no badge. They never identify themselves. There’s only the yellow shirts, the blue scarves, and the military haircuts.
They are not Adolf Hitler’s Brownshirts or Benito Mussolini’s Blackshirts, it’s a far cry, but the tactic is similar.
The deployment of non-police to police the citizens through force and intimidation, in a uniform not authorized by the state nor recognized by the citizens.
This is not to say the military can never be deployed within national borders. When the police fail to keep peace and order, the army is sent in to assist. That’s standard practice. It’s a practical solution: more men, more guns.
But they must be in military uniform and their deployment must be officially sanctioned by the state, which means: proposed by the legislative branch (the parliament), approved by the judicial branch (the constitutional court), and executed by the executive branch (the prime minister’s office).
The Ratsadon protests have been the most peaceful and orderly Thailand has ever seen.
Except for minor incidents of pushing and throwing bottles when boxed in by the police, there has not been any threat of chaos and violence.
Nonetheless, the police have used riot tactics on the protestors (water cannons laced in tear gas chemicals), while the military directly interferes with the state’s internal affairs.
A nation where a general can order out-of-uniform army men to police the citizens with impunity is a nation not governed by the state but ruled by warlords.
For far too long, Thailand is a nation ruled by warlords.
Reform is a must.