RTAF out of touch
The plan to host a lavish inauguration ceremony for the new air force commander-in-chief, including a flyover this afternoon, shows poor judgement on the part of the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF).
The flyover, expected to be the highlight of the ceremony, has required the airspace over Don Mueang airport to be closed during rehearsals that started on Sept 23. Another took place on Tuesday.
The RTAF did not disclose the number of jet fighters -- F16s, T50THs and Saab JAS 39 Gripens -- that would be used for the ceremony to welcome ACM Alongkorn Vannarot, who replaces ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya.
It has been reported that nearly 30 commercial flights were delayed on Tuesday alone as a result of these proceedings when the airspace was shut down for an hour from 2.45pm to 3.45pm.
However, such disruptions cause massive headaches, and often additional expenses, for passengers who need to connect flights.
Public condemnation of the RTAF's move prompted it to quickly issue an apology.
Nonetheless, it insisted it had issued a Notice to Airmen (Notam) to agencies beforehand in order to inform airlines that were scheduled to fly in and out of Don Mueang during this period.
"We ask for understanding as the RTAF has to share the airport's airspace," spokesman AVM Prapas Sornjaidee said in a press release on Tuesday amid soaring criticism.
In a bid to douse public anger, the spokesman said the RTAF, which is well aware of the adverse impact of its actions, had shortened the rehearsal time.
Moreover, AVM Prapas tried to create the impression that a flyover is not an extravagant move for the RTAF as the agency conducts many of them each year for important events such as National Children's Day.
Such claims are nonsensical.
The spokesman and his new boss should know that a flyover for an inauguration is not appropriate by any standards.
The result it creates goes far beyond an acceptable level of inconvenience for the other parties who are affected.
It also begs the question: Is this a wise use of the RTAF's budget? A flyover is a costly exercise and way of welcoming the new chief, who has pledged to pursue frugality and optimise the use of the state budget in order to improve the agency's financial situation.
Needless to say, this is a thoughtless use of taxpayers' money, especially at a time when fuel is so expensive, and the country has yet to recover from pandemic-related strife.
Arguably, such a ceremony undermines the competence of the new chief and the air force, to antagonise public sentiment at such a time. Before this, the government encouraged the public to spend carefully given the bleak economic outlook. By not following such guidelines, the RTAF has set a poor example.
Hardly a flying start for the new RTAF chief -- unless he changes the plan.
In proceeding with the ceremony paid for by taxpayers' money, ACM Alongkorn could be seen as insensitive at best.
When those in senior positions show little respect for the public, they must be held to account by the agencies that deal with budget auditing.
The House panel that scrutinises the RTAF budget should be aware of unwarranted luxuries and see to it that no funds are squandered like this again.
Bangkok Post editorial column
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- Royal Thai Air Force