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Thursday, December 13, 2007

General Sonthi, The Encroacher

Too hard to move

Bangkok Post


Deputy Prime Minister Sonthi Boonyaratkalin occupies three "official" houses, but this is not because he is a Muslim and has three wives.


The general has raised many eyebrows for his failure to give up three army-owned residential quarters, especially the latest one - a fully-furnished 13-million-baht home in the 11th Infantry Regiment in Bang Khen district - after he retired in September.


Gen Sonthi has lived in the army house, which is next to the Kesakomol residence, ever since he was made deputy army chief.


After taking up the army's top job, he used the Kesakomol house to welcome and entertain guests, so much so that many thought he slept there. But because many top brass faced lightning transfers in the past after they moved to the Kesakomol house, Gen Sonthi has never spent the night there. He has only hosted VIP guests.


For appointments with politicians, he prefers the private ambience of hotels.


As the Kesakomol house sits on a main road and any visitors can be seen by reporters who trail his every move, Gen Sonthi started looking for a "safe house". But all the residential units providing a sense of security in the military complexes that he has looked at are fully occupied.


Then he stumbled across a big block of land in the 11th Infantry Regiment compound. He endorsed an army budget to build five houses for the army's top five - the commander-in-chief, his deputy, their two assistants and the chief-of-staff.


After a year of construction, he moved into the new house a few months after he staged the coup on Sept 19 last year. "I often stay here on Friday, because I need not rise early the next day to go to work," he said.


He has not surrendered any of the three houses, even after retiring from the army and leaving the Council for National Security.


Under army rules, an officer must move out of an official house within six months of retirement. In practice, retired officers may stay on for up to one year while they build a new house.


But with former army chiefs, no one dares ask them to let go of the official houses, said an army source.


"Some phuyai hold on to official houses, with the army footing their electricity and water bills," the source said.


Gen Sonthi is banking on his post as deputy prime minister in charge of security affairs to justify his stay at all three houses, keeping new army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda waiting.


"The 11th Infantry Regiment already gave the land where Gen Sonthi's new house sits to the army. Gen Sonthi can stay on after his retirement, but not for the rest of his life," said the source.


It's good to be a Thai general. Well, at least the Sonthi doesn't have to spend any of his millions of baht he has accumulated over the years on housing.

1 comment:

Colonel Jeru said...

Not bad at all being a Thai General and Army Chief. Perks aplenty . . . and I am sure Fonzi you have only scratched the surface of the perks junta chief General Sonthi got and still receives during and after active service.