How much did the CRES cost? Don’t ask General Prayuth about it!
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How much did the CRES cost? Don’t ask General Prayuth about it!

By Saksith Saiyasombut

After the state of emergency was lifted in Bangkok and three other provinces on Tuesday it was also time for the CRES, which overlooked the security situation (and made it’s spokesperson Col. Sansern an instant celebrity), to be dissolved. Now the monitoring body is no more (but is essentially replaced with another one), questions were popping up about the total cost to maintain the CRES. The Bangkok Post reported:

Although sources at the army insist they have records to show the CRES’s bills came to just over 2 billion baht [US$ 66,3m], figures previously revealed by military officers indicated the cost of running the centre might have been much higher. […]

Army sources said the army’s accountant reported that the CRES spent 2.04 billion baht in total. Most of the money went on officers’ allowances and expenses for fuel and vehicles.

Gen Pirun Paewponsaeng earlier revealed when he was army chief of staff that the CRES’s expenses between April 7 and May 25 alone stood at 1.9 billion baht [US$ 63m]The Internal Security Operations Command, which was then under CRES supervision, spent another 2.08 billion baht [US$ 93m] during the same period.

Deputy PM insists CRES spending above board“, Bangkok Post, December 23, 2010.

Reporters attempted to ask commander-in-chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha about this and his response was, erm, very straightforward…

ข่าว บิ้กตู่ฟิวส์ขาด ปรี๊ดแตก“, video by @thaitvnews

And here’s a translation of what he said:

Why? Where did you get this budget of hundred-thousands and millions? Where did you get that?! These are only work compensations! That many officials work that much and you multiply that, simple! Where did you get that number? (Taunting) Huh?! Ask the person you get that from, it’s from one of here [the reporters]!

(Reporter: “So what is the total cost?”)

I don’t know! Look it up yourselves! I want you to let you know that if you want the officials to do their work, this country to be safe, then stop with the rumors! Such nonsense you people write! The the government does this and that to – erm, not the government, the army! – buys this and that; what do I get out of this?! I ask you who benefits from the purchases? Thailand, or not?! Who gets the perks? I don’t know, but I don’t – nobody does! Go and get your facts about what this country needs to buy to protect this country! You all say ‘we shouldn’t buy this, we shouldn’t buy that’ and if we buy, then you shout ‘corruption’ – show me the evidence! [If you keep asking that, soon] nobody wants to work [for the army] and protect the country! You’ll destroy one by one until there’s no one left! So go and find a new one! Let’s help build up something!

(Reporters: “Then please tell us how much money the CRES used…”)

I won’t! I won’t because I’m clean! Tell you about what? Why? Have I done something wrong?

(Reporter: “If you don’t explain, there’ll be doubts abou…”)

Why?! Go and ask the government, let them explain! All the expenses, they’ll tell! If I need to explain [about] everything, then I won’t get any work done! I have already told you, I don’t get anything, the army doesn’t as well. The ones who got it are the officials who have eaten and slept on the ground each and every day. Why, are they not Thais? Are they not human? Huh?! Are they not human?! Don’t they need money? Or don’t they need to eat? Go and keep an eye on them, go – I have enough…! (walks away)

(Translation and emphasis by me)

It wasn’t so much what he said rather than how he spoke to the reporters about this issue that underlines his clear perception of himself, the armed forces and the country. By the looks of it, he still has a lot of work to convince us. It goes without saying that many past purchases of the army were sketchy and, in the case of the bogus GT200 device, their use for the country are to be questioned.

So the reporters then went to the government to ask about the CRES’ costs and their answer was:

Mr Suthep said yesterday that all the CRES’s expenditure was transparent. […] Mr Suthep, who served as CRES director for a time, conceded he had no actual figures on the centre’s expenses.

The government will report to parliament the details of the CRES expenses. He would make all the figures public once the government agencies responsible completed the centre’s financial report. The deputy prime minister said he expected the report to be finalised soon as parliament was due to reconvene late next month. […]

Mr Suthep said the CRES’s spending did not include the budget for maintaining military supplies and the vehicles damaged during clashes between security forces and red shirt protesters.

Deputy PM insists CRES spending above board“, Bangkok Post, December 23, 2010

Well, guess we’ll have to wait until next year…

P.S.: Nevertheless, the interview was somehow very reminiscent of late prime minister Samak Sundaravej, who had a habit of berating reporters in a blunt way (here’s a recent one and here’s Samak in vintage form).

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist based in Hamburg, Germany. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith