Food for army thought

Food for army thought

The Thai army only has itself to blame for failing to reveal the truth clearly and consistently regarding the allegation that it supplied rice to Myanmar's armed forces.

Myanmar's military has come under increasing international pressure for a brutal crackdown on anti-coup protesters which has claimed nearly 250 lives so far.

Thailand is among the countries that have voiced concern over the bloodshed.

Last weekend, however, media reports emerged which claimed that the Thai army had supplied 700 sacks of rice to Myanmar's army units via the border in Sop Moei district of Mae Hong Son.

According to the reports, the supplies were meant for units based in areas that had been cut off by the ethnic insurgent group Karen National Union (KNU) since the Feb 1 coup.

The accusation was certainly damaging to the Thai army.

It was the kind of news that should have been handled professionally.

But it was not.

Instead of clarifying what was actually going on, Third Army Commander Lt Gen Apichet Suesat, who is in charge of the northern border, went roundabout.

He said the rice was not supplied by Thailand but was part of provisions that the Myanmar's military had asked to be sent across the border as agreed under the Township Border Committee (TBC).

He insisted that such deliveries were normal business that had been going on for years.

The assistance is a testament to relations between the troops of the two countries, he said.

It should have been obvious that these details not only failed to shed light on the issue but also worked to deepen the doubt. What is the difference between the Thai army's "supplying" rice to Myanmar's armed forces and its merely serving as delivery boys?

Probably sensing the confusion, Maj Gen Amnat Srimak, commander of the Naresuan Task Force covering the northern border, came up with another version.

In a statement quoted by Reuters, Maj Gen Amnat said the Thai army was not supplying the Myanmar army and there had been no contact from the Myanmar army requesting help or demanding any assistance.

According to the taskforce commander, the sacks of rice seen in photos circulated online were likely part of regular border trade.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha reiterated that stance on Monday.

Contrary to what the Naresuan Task Force commander said, however, the PM explained that the food supplies would be sent to Myanmar people who had been persuaded on humanitarian grounds to move to lowland from mountainous areas straddling the border between the two countries.

Gen Prayut reaffirmed that the Myanmar government had not asked for any help from Thailand since the coup began. He also stated that Thailand abided by the Asean's principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of member states.

Yet it is the army's own unclear explanation of what the rice lying suspiciously on the Thai-Myanmar border actually is that gave rise to the scandal.

Are they provisions that Myanmar's army asked us to send through? Is it regular border trade? Or is it supplies to be sent for humanitarian purposes, as explained by the prime minister?

It is the ambiguity that deepens the doubt which in turn could tarnish the country's reputation.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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