Common practice, maybe, but it's still nepotism

Common practice, maybe, but it's still nepotism

It's a classic case of shooting yourself in the foot and is currently the talk of the town on social media - how Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha gave his civilian son a job as an army officer, working for the 3rd Army Region.

Suggestions of nepotism were quickly bounced around by critics.
Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, has accused Gen Preecha, the defence permanent secretary and younger brother of Prime Minister Prayut, of abuse of authority and violating the Anti-Corruption Act.

Gen Preecha defended the appointment, insisting that 25-year-old Patipat Chan-o-cha is qualified for the job of civic affairs officer as he has a BA degree in communications and experience working in public relations at PTT  Plc.

He admitted his son did not really want to be a soldier but he strongly advised him to apply for the position because it would provide better job security than working at PTT.  Also, he claimed that his son applied for the job properly, as advised, and was properly and promptly recruited and appointed. All above board.

The rank of acting sub-lieutenant goes with the job.

Gen Preecha's letter, as defence secretary, approving the appointment was reportedly  marked "secret", but leaked to the media anyway.

Quickly jumping to the rescue of the embattled defence permanent secretary was Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who said that he saw nothing wrong about the appointment, as it was a normal practice in the military that sons of high ranking officers also joined the service.

It's doubtful critics would have bothered much at all with the appointment of Gen Preecha’s son had the army been a private company and the general the chairman -- even if his son was made CEO.

But the truth is the army is not a private company but an arm of the state, funded by taxpayers through the government budget.

It's also true several generals seem to have mistakenly believed the army is their private domain and off-limits to everyone else.  Remember the signs “Army Territory, No Entry” that used to greet outsiders at most military barracks?

It is through this misperception that several sons, sons-in-law and other relatives of the military top brass have been recruited into non-combat military service, as in the case of Gen Preecha’s son.
To the critics and those who do not have the same privilege of sending their unemployed sons into military service, or who don’t have the right connections, this practice Gen Prawit described as perfectly normal is called nepotism.

Nepotism has been widely practiced in most state enterprises too.  Ever wonder why there has never been an advertisement for applicants to fill job vacancies at Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, the Government Lottery Office or the waterworks authorities? The truth is that all the vacancies available were quickly filled by relatives of those already working there. That also explains why these organisations are left behind and cannot compete with the private sector.

Honestly, I have sympathy for the young man, Gen Preecha’s son, for being caught in the middle of the controversy through no fault of his own.  He should know that his career path in army service is limited because he did not graduate from the military academy and does not belong to a class at the academy.

Gen Preecha shot himself in the foot through his own mis-judgement.   However, the damage is not confined to him, but has inevitably affected the National Council for Peace and Order because of the general’s close connection with the junta.

But jumping to the rescue of Gen Preecha by any members of the NCPO will only drag the junta deeper into the controversy, which will further hurt its image and credibility.

Veera Prateepchaikul

Former Editor

Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.

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