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Boosting Skills Of Brave Soldiers Should Be Priority; Thai Opinion


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EDITORIAL

Boosting skills of brave soldiers should be priority

By The Nation

Modernisation of the Thai military is long overdue, and the focus should not be on hardware

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha wants 36 new helicopters. His statement came in the aftermath of a spate of accidents that saw three Army helicopters crash within the span of a few of days on the Thai-Burmese border in Phetchaburi province.

The Army later denied that the request was a response to the accidents, saying that the move to acquire a new fleet of choppers was part of a long-term plan. Prayuth pointed out that the current fleets date back to the Vietnam War era and said that it was time for modernisation.

Prayuth claimed the outgoing Democrat-led government had said they didn't have the money to do it, so his request was being made to the new government.

However, the plans to update the helicopter fleet shouldn't stop consideration of other aspects needed to enhance the capacity of the Thai Armed Forces.

While the causes of the recent accidents remain unknown, bad weather and the malfunction of machinery are likely contributing factors in the crashes.

Thus, budget needs to be properly allocated to enhance the capacity of Army personnel on active service in dealing with difficult and unexpected circumstances. Such personnel have to face dangers that can be fatal. The government and Army chiefs should do all they can to ensure these brave soldiers and personnel are given the skills that best enable them to fulfil their missions with safety.

Too much focus of the military budget on the hardware side - equipment or machinery - obscures the need to enhance "the software" - the capacity of personnel.

Following the financial crisis in 1997, military spending was cut by 25 per cent. Ten years later the military was given Bt143 billion for the year 2008 - a 24-per-cent increase from the previous year. But instead of pushing for a leaner and meaner military, the top brass remained stuck in their old mindset. The current structure is too focused on administration, with 70 per cent of the budget going on salary and pensions as well as other items that do nothing to directly enhance military capability, technology and machinery.

In other words, the Army needs to get its priorities straight. But instead it has chosen to maintain itself as another bloated government agency that thinks size is more important than quality.

In this age of modern weaponry, Thai military minds need to focus on ways of creating a leaner and meaner fighting force. This means cutting back on the number of troops, especially those in the officer corps, most of whom sit around without any real unit to command.

Recent incidents in Thailand show that the country's soldiers need to be equipped with the skills and capacities to deal with threats to our security such as terrorism and riots. The helicopter crashes also reminded the public that another responsibility of the Army is to protect our forests and natural resources.

All of these missions require that soldiers of all rank be properly equipped and capable. For this, they need to be provided with the proper training and support that will enable them to perform their difficult duties with maximum safety and efficiency.

The need for greater support across all ranks also means that high-ranking army officials must sacrifice some of their perks.

It's time to think seriously about modernisation of the Thai military, and cutting back in areas that can be cut back. In this day and age, armed forces need to prioritise professionalism. Items that can be outsourced should be outsourced. And defending the nation's sovereignty shouldn't have to mean having to own a network of lucrative radio and television stations.

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-- The Nation 2011-07-30

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.."with 70 per cent of the budget going on salary and pensions as well as other items that do nothing to directly enhance military capability, technology and machinery."

..."especially those in the officer corps, most of whom sit around without any real unit to command."

70 % on salaries and pensions?? No wonder there's no money for maintenance and training and the birds fall out of the sky.

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Doesn't Thailand have more Generals than the Brit army has corporals? Whatever do they do, apart from playing golf badly that is.

Given the return on investment in the Thai Armed Forces from 1941 on I'd disband the lot of them.

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