PM defends Gen Prawit’s controversial remarks about pre-cadet’s death

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday (Nov 23) came to the defence of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon over the latter’s provocative remarks concerning the suspicious death of a military pre-cadet.

On Wednesday, Gen Prawit told the media that it was usual in the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School (Afaps) for pre-cadets to be subjected to corporal punishment or “som” when they did something wrong and he himself used to be punished until he went unconscious, but he survived the ritual.

Asked by a report how to protect pre-cadets from being abused by their senior to the extent they were seriously injured, the deputy prime minister said:  “Then, they don’t have to enroll (into the school); don’t become soldiers; we only want men who are willing.”

Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon: “I used to be punished, but I survive.”

Gen Prawit’s comment came after family of a 18-year-old Pakapong Tanyakan, the first-year student at that Afaps, suspected foul play in the death of the teenager, who died on Oct 17 at the school.

Prime Minister Prayut said Gen Prawit, who is also the Defence Minister, was not intentional and might feel upset when he made such remarks, adding that he himself had gone through similar ritual.

He went on saying that each country had its own curricula and precedent in military training.  He explained that if the training was ordinary, the armed forces would get “ordinary people who are not tough.”

However, he noted that the training must be done in a way which will not cause loss of life.

Cadet student Pakapong died on Oct 17.

Meanwhile, Royal Thai Armed Forces spokesman Lt-Gen Nothapol Boonngam said Supreme Commander Gen Thanchaiyan Srisuwan had ordered the setup of a fact-finding committee to probe the death of Pakapong.

The probe team is led by Air Chief Marshal Chavarat Marungruang, deputy chief-of-staff of the armed forces and comprises doctors from the military medical unit.

The spokesman said that some seniors at the school would also be investigated, adding that they would be punished if found guilty.