Saturday, November 8, 2008

PM, Army Chief: Who's scaring whom?

A strange memo has just gone out from the defence minister's secretariat to all military units concerned to deny that a committee has been set up to investigate the army chief for having gone on television to "discredit" and "smear" the prime minister.

It wasn't that long ago that the army chief together with the supreme commander and heads of the navy, air force and police went on Channel 3 to talk politics. The famous quote from the army chief was: "If I were the prime minister, I would have quit (to take responsibility over the Oct 7 incident)."

The immediate reaction from most analysts:Premier Somchai Wongsawat, who is also defence minister, is afraid that such a rumour could anger Army Commander-in-Chief, Gen Anupong Paochinda,to the point that a new confrontation between the premier and the armed forces could explode into a new crisis.

Was it just a rumour? Well, it was almost a "credible rumour" when even the name of the head of the probe team was mentioned: Air Chief Marshal Kampol Suwannathat, the defence ministry's general officer, who promptly shot down the story, saying there was no basis to the speculation at all.

The rather odd memo of denial said it was the army chief's personal right to express his political opinion.

Even more interesting was the statement in the memo stating: "The prime minister is not angry with the army chief. They continue to work together harmoniously."

Will that put an end to the rumour or will it re-ignite a new one?

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