By THE NATION
Surachart Bamrungsuk, a renowned Army academic told “NationTV” that there are at least 15 businesses the Royal Thai Army (RTA) is involved in. They are:
➤ Savings Division at Army Welfare Department: It essentially makes all Army personnel contribute a portion of their monthly payroll to set up a fund for emergency or housing loans. The fund has become so huge that it generates considerable profit, but its management and distribution are still questionable.
➤ Army television stations: Currently the RTA has two stations under its wings -- Channel 5, which it runs and manages, and Channel 7, which operates under a private concession contract. These stations have generated huge profits from advertising and concession fees.
➤ Army radio stations: All four regions of Army divisions have their own radio stations scattered nationwide, which generate revenue from advertising just like TV stations.
➤ Army horse race tracks: Currently there are two in Nakhon Ratchasima and Chiang Mai provinces.
➤ Army golf courses: They are located in almost all major boot camps nationwide. Although the Army needs these sports facilities for personnel training and hosting its activities, these golf courses also accept civilian memberships and some even have their own business chains such as restaurants and resorts.
➤ Army boxing stadiums: There are two in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
➤ State lands under RTA administration, including the Thanarak Housing Project that aims to provide cheap housing to Army personnel.
➤ The welfare firearms project for Army personnel.
➤ Army football club.
➤ Restaurant businesses within boot camps.
➤ Funeral Welfare Division of the Army Welfare Department, which works similar to the Savings Division.
➤ The Royal Thai Army Club, which offers concession contract to private operators to run and manage.
➤ Road construction business using Army equipment and personnel as labour.
➤ Convenience store business (7-11) within boot camps.
➤ Other businesses, such as renting Army land as petrol stations or selling soil from Army construction projects.
“These are the businesses or commercial uses of army’s personnel and resources that RTA must clarify their transparency to the public, including how the profits are managed and distributed back to the army personnel,” Surachart added.