Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Surayuth and Sonthi: Cracks in Military Unity as Bad as Cracks at Suvarnaphumi?

Surayud blasts Sonthi over South

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on Tuesday accused army chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin of failing to do enough to curb a separatist insurgency in the Muslim-majority south.

It was the first open split between the two men, whose relationship goes far back, when both were at the Army Special Warfare headquarters.

But Gen Surayud has indicated lately that he was growing impatient over a combination of escalating violence in the South and a lack of action from the junta headquarters in Bangkok.

After the Tuesday cabinet meeting, Gen Surayud told reporters what he thought.

He said that Gen Sonthi, who heads the army, the Council for National Security and the Internal Security Operation Command, has failed to improve the security situation in the southern provinces along the border with Malaysia.

"I have already assessed" Gen Sonthi's work, said the premier. "It does not meet our expectations. He needs to do more."

Gen Surayud opened the rift following a three-day visit by Malaysian Prime Minister Abdulla Badawi, with whom he discussed the southern insurgency at length.

"Most villagers have no confidence that the government can help them. During public hearings in the region, it's clear that people have no confidence in the government," Gen Surayud said.

The failure to improve security had doomed his own efforts to find a political solution to the conflict that has killed 2,000 people over three years, he said.

The unusual public criticism from Gen Surayud against the man who appointed him as premier came amid escalating violence in the region, with three people killed in attacks overnight.

The prime minister has made resolving the conflict a top priority, and has restored a key mediation centre while extending an offer to hold talks with the militants.

He has also worked to improve ties with neighbouring Malaysia, which had been badly strained by the unrest.

After Gen Sonthi - who is also a Muslim - ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the military coup last Sept 19, hopes had risen that he would be able to end the unrest.

But the violence has flared since the coup, including two grisly beheadings this month alone.

General Surayuth is too busy playing with his choo choo trains and not available to manage the country.

General Sonthi is too busy monitoring Thaksin's words around the planet to take care of national security, especially with arson fires in the North and the terrorism in the South.

The rest of the generals are too busy dividing up Thaksin's assets between them.

The bureaucrats are waiting for the FBA to kick in so they can kick foreigners out of the country and buy up their assets on the cheap.

And while the country falls apart, most of the population sits stupefied in front of their TVs watching horrible soap operas and mind numbing game shows.

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