Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Army chief seeks end to military business deals

Feb 12. 2020
Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong
Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong
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By The Nation

Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong announced on Tuesday (February 11) that military personnel would be unloading some of their private business interests within three months.

The remarkable pledge came as he was apologising for Saturday’s killing spree in which an Army sergeant-major apparently upset over an internal business deal gone wrong shot dead 30 people in downtown Nakhon Ratchasima and wounded 58 others.

Apirat extended condolences to the relatives of the people killed and to the injured, promising financial compensation and jobs in the military for their offspring.

He acknowledged that the Army had long been involved in various business that enable enlisted men to purchase homes at low cost, but said that would now end.

“In three months, officers from general’s to colonel’s rank will definitely not have outside jobs and I don’t care, because I know what can go wrong,” he said. “This is the start to resolving the long-standing problems in the Army.”

Apirat said he had cancelled the planned purchases of “welfare guns” – presumably sold to lower ranks at a discount – and senior officers would henceforth have to arrange such purchases through the Army chief of staff.

He’s also letting officers live rent-free in their military-assigned homes for decades so they can save money to buy a house of their own after they retire and he wants retired officers to vacate their homes to make way for serving officers who don’t have one.

“I will continue making improvements until my last day as Army chief and I have confidence that the next commander will do the same,” Apirat said.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has separately appointed officials to investigate the allocation of land to build houses for sale to military personnel.

“This is a great lesson – that all parties must improve to make sure incident like this do not occur again in the future, especially imitative behaviour prompted by websites or social media,” Prayut said.

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