Preecha 'abused power'
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Preecha 'abused power'

Son's new job leads to nepotism investigation

Gen Preecha Chan-ocha. brother of the prime minister and father of the controversial new Ministry of Defence employee, takes his sacred oath to serve honestly at the ministry last September.  (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Gen Preecha Chan-ocha. brother of the prime minister and father of the controversial new Ministry of Defence employee, takes his sacred oath to serve honestly at the ministry last September. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Permanent secretary for defence Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha, the younger brother of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, is facing a probe over allegations of malfeasance and nepotism in the appointment of his son as an army officer.

Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, on Monday petitioned the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and the Office of the Ombudsman to look into Gen Preecha's appointment of his son, Patipat, as an officer in the 3rd Army.

Mr Patipat has been made an acting sub-lieutenant handling civil affairs in the 3rd Army, with a salary of 15,000 baht.

Mr Srisuwan accused Gen Preecha of malfeasance for approving the appointment of his son as an army officer.

He alleged the appointment was an abuse of authority for personal benefit in violation of the 1999 Anti-Corruption Act, the 1996 Administrative Procedure Act, and the Defence Ministry's code of ethics.

As a member of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), Gen Preecha has also breached the NLA's code of ethics prohibiting its members from becoming involved in conflicts of interest and abusing their positions for personal gain, Mr Sriwusan alleged.

"Gen Preecha's action not only breaks the law, but it also goes against intentions announced by the National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO] when it seized power to deal with politicians' bad behaviour. The NCPO should not repeat what politicians did," Mr Srisuwan said.

He added that he will ask an NLA ethics committee to investigate the matter.

Mr Srisuwan also called on Mr Patipat to quit his job in a show of responsibility and for Gen Preecha to apologise to the public over the matter.

Since Gen Preecha is a high-ranking officer as well as a political-office holder, he should maintain a higher moral standard and act as a role model for the public, Mr Srisuwan said.

Defending his son's appointment, Gen Preecha said Monday that his son had been properly recruited by the 3rd Army to fill a vacancy as a civil affairs officer.

Gen Preecha said his son had the right qualifications for the job as he had experience working in public relations with state-owned PTT Exploration and Production Plc (PTTEP) and holds a degree in communications.

Applications for military positions are usually screened by a committee and it was his job as the permanent secretary for defence to approve proposals made by the committee, as assigned by the defence minister, he said.

Gen Preecha said his son did not want to be a soldier, but he had advised him to take up a military position because it was more secure than being a PTTEP employee. He said he asked his son to apply when a vacancy became available.

He said Gen Prayut had no objections as long as the process was legitimate.

"Probably it is because our family name is Chan-o-cha and it has drawn public attention. Many other children of high-ranking military officers also join the military when there are openings available. I don't want to say that the matter has been politicised," Gen Preecha said.

Regarding Mr Srisuwan's petitions against the appointment, Gen Preecha said he was ready to clarify the issue. He insisted he had followed regulations.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Prawit Wongsuwon told reporters Monday that the appointment of Gen Preecha's son was perfectly normal and he saw nothing wrong with it.

He said recruitment and an appointment can take place immediately if there is a vacancy, especially in a specialist field.

Gen Prawit avoided directly answering if the appointment of Gen Preecha's son amounted to nepotism. "Do you want to be soldiers?" he said.

He also wondered why military documents were often leaked to the media, saying some of them were classified.

Ministry of Defence spokesman Khongcheep Tantravanich said that each year the army recruits new personnel to replace retired officers in line with regulations and qualifications laid down by the ministry.

When there are vacancies, commanders of each unit will set up a screening committee to recruit applicants with the right qualifications. The unit commanders will then submit candidates for consideration by their superiors, with the defence minister having the final say on the appointments, Maj Gen Khongcheep said.

In this case, Gen Prawit authorised Gen Preecha to approve appointments on his behalf, Maj Gen Khongcheep said, adding that there is no special quota for children of soldiers and that rules governing national administration do not prohibit family members from working in the same organisation.

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