Nepotism is not 'normal'

Nepotism is not 'normal'

For many, the practice of recruiting someone into military service to work as a junior officer through a process that bypasses qualifying tests may not be a big deal.

After all, this has been widely practised for time immemorial in military circles.

But for a top brass army officer such as permanent secretary for defence Preecha Chan-o-cha to put his son into the military service with the rank of an acting sub-lieutenant at the army's civil affairs directorate without going through a qualifying examination is definitely not a small issue.

Leaders of the military regime have tried to convince critics that this is normal. In defending his action which is seen by many as an act of nepotism, Gen Preecha admitted he recruited his son, Patipat Chan-o-cha, who has a BA degree in communications to fill a vacant post in the civil affairs directorate through a "special process". But he claimed several other military officers had done this before.

Separately, both Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon have jumped to the defence of Gen Preecha by insisting that the recruitment of Mr Patipat is legitimate.

Gen Prayut went a step further by suggesting that it might be because of the Chan-o-cha family's name which attracted the attention and caused the uproar.

But their rationale appears to stray out of line with the military regime's professed commitment to reforms and its constant lambasting of nepotism and corruption of the Thaksin regime which they cited to justify the coup two years ago. In other words, their rationale in the defence of what is widely viewed as an act of nepotism rings hollow and smacks of hypocrisy.

The case is by no means normal. To begin with, it is unfair to many other young men who, like Mr Pitapat, are qualified with BA degrees and who are looking for jobs in the army. If the recruitment process is transparent and is open to all -- which should have been the case because the military too is funded with taxpayers' money -- other young men will have equal opportunities to apply for the job.

The case is not normal because the public has high expectations from the top brass, including the defence permanent secretary -- to lead by example. Regrettably though, they just follow in the footsteps of their predecessors or colleagues to carry on with disgraceful but lawful practices.

Critics have the right to cry foul against this particular recruitment and nepotism in general which should be curbed if not abolished. This, of course, may be just wishful thinking. The move by Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, to take the case to the attention of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Ombudsman's Office should hopefully result in a ruling which will set a precedent for this sort of recruitment, not just in the military, but in the government bureaucracy as a whole.

In the meantime, Mr Patipat, who is unfortunately caught in the middle of this scandal though no fault of his own, can help save his father and the family's reputation from this unsavoury affair. A netizen has just launched a campaign urging him to call it quits from his new job. It is an option worth considering.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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