Army chief changes mind, meets MPs
published : 21 Oct 2019 at 13:27
updated: 21 Oct 2019 at 16:11
writer: Wassana Nanuam
Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong returned quickly from Kanchanaburi and met with the House committee on security on Monday, after earlier saying he was unavailable, following a second, "serious" invitation.
Gen Apirat cancelled his visit to the Surasee Task Force in Kanchanaburi province on Monday afternoon and returned to Bangkok to attend the meeting with the House committee on national security, border affairs, national strategies and national reform.
The swift return came after the House committee repeated its request -- this time "seriously" -- for Gen Apirat's presence in order to discuss his Oct 11 lecture on national security.
During the lecture at the army headquarters, Gen Apirat stated that the royal institution, the military and people were inseparable and some politicians and academics remained communistic in their thoughts. In some parts of his speech, Gen Apirat apparently referred to Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the Future Forward Party leader who met Hong Kong protest leader Joshua Wong.
The House committee chaired by Future Forward Party deputy leader Lt Gen Pongsakorn Rodchompu convened with Gen Apirat to discuss the issue on Monday.
Gen Apirat apparently had a swift change of mind, because earlier in the morning the army wrote to the House committee that Gen Apirat was not available for the discussion and assistant army chief Gen Sunai Praphuchanay would meet the committee instead.
Gen Apirat showed up at the parliament to meet the committee at about 10.50am, 50 minutes after the closed-door meeting was scheduled to begin. He was accompanied by his assistant Gen Sunai.
The army chief told reporters that he cancelled his visit at the Surasee Task Force in Kanchanaburi in the afternoon and changed his clothes in his vehicle in order to meet the House committee promptly. He said he was ready for an exchange of opinions.
"I have learned that the legislature and the executive branch really need to talk. The army attaches great importance to this. So I cut short my trip and flew back to attend the meeting. I changed in my vehicle and I am ready to answer every question," Gen Apirat said.
Earlier, at about 10am, Lt Gen Pongsakorn said that the House committee wanted Gen Apirat himself to testify because he had given the lecture, and the committee intended to keep repeating its invitation to the army chief.
The House committee did not intend to interfere with Gen Apirat's work but wanted an exchange of opinions, he said.
After the meeting, Gen Apirat said that its atmosphere was good and many concerns that were useful for the armed forces were raised. He also said that he would send an advisor from the army to join the House committee, as it requested, but would not revisit the panel himself.
Lt Gen Pongsakorn said he was grateful for the army chief's visit and the meeting was mutually beneficial.
They accepted one another's reservations but many issues were classified, he said.
The meeting showed cooperation between the legislature and the executive branch and it should bring about long-term benefits, especially in the context of security, he said.