Prayut to stay on at house in army base

Prayut to stay on at house in army base

Prawit denies staying in one, Anupong cites distance

"It’s important that there be an appropriate place for the leader of the country," says Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. (Government House photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says he will continue to live in a house in an army base for security reasons.

“I've served the country all my life. Regardless of regulations, I still work today. Most importantly, I’m the prime minister and security is necessary. It’s important that there be an appropriate place for the leader of the country. However, I stand ready to move to my own place,” he said.

His comments came after army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong vowed to “clean up” inappropriate activities after the Nakhon Ratchasima bloodbath on Feb 8. The motive of the rampage was believed to have stemmed from a housing loan under the army’s welfare programme which some higher-ranking officers’ families allegedly make a business out of at the expense of their subordinates.

Gen Apirat mentioned as an example of such activities the use of army-provided residences by soldiers after they retired.

The armed forces provide houses and apartments as standard welfare for their personnel and many of them are located inside military bases. After an occupier retires, he is no longer qualified to use it.

After Gen Apirat’s comments, questions have been raised about some senior cabinet ministers who are retired soldiers — Gen Prayut and his two deputies, Gen Prawit Wongsuwon and Gen Anupong Paochinda — since the trio are known to have lived in an army base. Some senators who are retired soldiers also do the same. 

The army spokesperson explained later there was an exception to the rule: if a retired soldier continues to serve the country well, he may continue to use the provided houses as residences. She cited as an example positions such as ministers and senators.

Gen Prawit said on Tuesday he had not lived in an army house since retirement. But a forest conservation foundation which he chairs rented the land in an army base for its office from the Finance Ministry for 15 years.

Deputy PM and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda explained he had given up an army residence after he retired and had since lived in his own house but recently reused it. He reasoned he was so exhausted from commuting because of the long distance.

In addition to government figures, an opposition MP admitted to keeping a house.

Lt Gen Pongsakorn Rodchomphu of the Future Forward Party, which champions military reform, told a TV programme he still lived in a provided house five years after he retired.

After heavy criticism, he apologised to the public and resigned as deputy party leader but would remain an MP and continue to push the reform.

Gen Pornpipat Benyasri, chief of the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, said housing was part of the welfare. “A commander is responsible for his subordinates, regardless of whether he still serves or has retired. We're ready to be flexible and help where we can.” 

Gen Prayut retired as army chief in 2014, Gen Anupong in 2010 and Gen Prawit in 2005. 

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