Military moves up, from bottles to banknotes
published : 7 Oct 2014 at 14:22
The public disclosure of the assets and liabilities of members of the National Legislative Assembly by the National Anti-Corruption Commission, especially the wealth of several police and military generals, is indeed an eye-opener.
Quite a few of us may feel envious of the wealth these government servants have accrued, and would like a few tips on just how they did it, how they managed their salaries to the extent that their worth multiplied so many times.
One thing that is going to change, for sure, is the perception regarding high-ranking military officers as set down in an old Thai saying, "Wives of military officers count bottles (whisky bottles); wives of police officers count banknotes".
It seems this old adage is no longer relevant, as the wives of military officers, particularly those in the NLA, no longer count bottles but banknotes -- like their peers in the police force.
Here are some examples of the wealth of the NLA members in uniform: defence permanent secretary General Sirichai Ditakul has assets worth 108 million baht; deputy national police chief Pol Gen Jaktip Chaijinda has 97.4 million baht while his wife is worth 870.9 million baht; Gen Chayut Suwanmas, a former army special resource officer, is worth 544 million baht; General Nipat Thonglek, former defence permanent secretary has 122 million baht; Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha, assistant army commander-in-chief is worth 122 million baht. The list goes on and, I reckon, your envy grows along with it. (More disclosures in graphic below)
Thai Rath columnist Mae Look Chan said in his commentary on Monday that these wealthy officers might have amassed their wealth from other sources besides their basic salaries from the state - possibly through family inheritance, profits from stock market speculation, or they might have very rich wives. Well, you may agree or disagree with Mae Look Chan, as you wish.
Looking at myself and my colleagues in the media profession, I can’t help feeling sorry I made such a bad decision in choosing to study law and, instead of enrolling at one of the military academies, spending the rest of my life as a journalist unable to amass even a small fraction of these NLA members’ wealth. What a waste.
I wonder whether any of those parents obsessed with the idea of their children getting into medical school or into law school, so as doctors or lawyers they can make a lot of money, will now change their minds and wonder if sending them to a military academy might be a better choice?
NACC secretary-general Sansern Poljiak urged people who have any information pointing to these wealthy NLA members having ill-gotten gains to come forward and share it with the NACC. But how many people would dare to put their life at such risk?
The constitutional requirement for legislators and cabinet members to declare their assets without making public information on the source of their wealth is pointless, just a formality rather than any real attempt to tackle the scourge of corruption in the government service.
There are countless examples of young MPs who had no real wealth when they first entered politics suddenly being multi-millionaires a few years later after their party was in government.
Declaration of assets and liabilities is not sufficient in itself. The law must make it mandatory for these public servants to also explain how and where they acquired their wealth.
That may well cause many people to think twice before deciding to enter politics, for fear that their wealth will be subjected to public scrutiny. The merits of transparency will clearly outweigh the demerits.
These 28 members of the NLA only reluctantly revealed their wealth after the Central Administrative Court rejected their claim they were not politicians and did have to declare their assets and liabilities. They turned out to have net worth ranging from 5 million to 838 million baht. (Bangkok Post graphic)
Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.