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Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The reinstatement of Duang Yubamrung and more of the same
One of the best aspects of being a journalist is that you get to meet all sorts of people from all levels, working in various professions. Whether you like them or not, or whether you agree or disagree with what they have to say, I always find it interesting, if not revealing, to find out more about the person behind the position. Who they are as an individual and their personality, often comes through in the policies they execute or try to implement.
Over the years, on a number of occasions, I have had the opportunity to sit and chat with the current Interior Minister Capt Chalerm Yubamrung. Despite disagreements over certain policies I have always found the minister to be affable and entertaining. Some would say even charming. But that's what a poltiician does or has to be. But there's one thing that strikes out more than anything else - he loves his sons.
For most parents, loving your children is a natural and right. Not all parents do this. But for those who do, loving and protecting your children must be done in the right way - in a manner that they would flourish into decent, responsible individuals. But as far as many in the public are concerned, this is not the case of Capt Chalerm and his sons. Their past record of pub brawls and incidents is testiment to that.
After years of political hibernation, Capt Chalerm is now back in government. Not long after that his son, Wan Yubamrung was endorsed by the Cabinet on 12 February as a secretary to Deputy Public Health Minister Chawarat Charnveerakul. Now another son, Duang Yubamrung, is reinstated as sub-lieutenant serving in the Supreme Command's Armed Forces Security Command - an order signed by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.
This is yet another controversial appointment as Duang, formerly Duangchalerm, was dismissed from the military following his alleged involvement in the fatal shooting of a police officer during a brawl in the Club 20 nightclub on Ratchadapisek Road in October 2001. Duang fled to Malaysia to escape arrest and was stripped of his rank after a military inquiry found him guilty of disregarding an order to report to work for 15 days and for avoiding a criminal investigation. Duang gave himself up in May 2002 and went to court. He was acquitted by the Criminal Court on the grounds of insufficient evidence and conflicting accounts.
I have no doubt about what many people's reaction to this would be. Sadly to me, there are wider implications. Think of it. Usually to be able to serve as a government official or bureaucrat there are a stackful of rules and regulations one must comply with. The Thai bureaucracy is well-known for that. Imagine what sort of clout is required to override consideration such as track record and past personal behaviour.
But then, anything is possible in our society. In decades past there are numerous examples of of prominent individuals or government officials who have fallen from grace as a result of controversy and turmoil only to return to live peacefully and with respect. Do the events of 1973 and 1976 ring a bell? What about Gen Manoon Roopkajorn (a colonel in the 1980s) staged a coup against then Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda? Years later he found himself resurrected as leader of the Senate. There are many more examples of individuals whose businesses went bust following the 1997 financial crisis and refused to pay their debts. They continued to live cushy lives and a number are back in business.
For ordinary Thais this would not be possible. The Yubamrung appointments, and others recently and in years goneby, is a partial reflection of a sad and undesirable aspect of our society where what is morally right and proper can be ignored, bent or discarded depending on the position of authority you hold at any given time, your financial status and who you know. What's worse there's a growing acceptance of this trend.