Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat has asked military top brass to reduce the number of generals in the armed forces, a daunting task considering there are 1,600 of them, the second highest in the world.
The minister on Thursday told senior officers of the three armed forces to come up with a practical strategy to solve the problem, a source at a meeting at the Defence Ministry said. However he barely mentioned the recent military reshuffle.
ACM Sukumpol’s request came as he announced the ministry’s work guidelines for the 2013 fiscal year which focus on seven areas including the planned restructuring of the army and promotion of non-commissioned officers to commissioned officers in order to reward low-ranking personnel.
The 400,000-strong military has more than 1,600 generals, making it the second highest in the world after the Cambodian army which is bloated with more than 2,000 generals.
The number has risen from 1,273 generals, of whom 700 were considered redundant with no active military posts, in 2003.
At that time, Thaksin Shinawatra, who is a close friend of ACM Sukumpol, was prime minister. He openly complained about the issue and urged military leaders to get rid of unnecessary generals.
“Now, the military’s workforce is of serious concern because there is a shortage of captains, but the number of generals exceeds the quota by 100 per cent. We have to make it slimmer by adjusting it in line with the military’s vision and modern development strategies,” Thaksin said during a visit to the Supreme Command on Sept 12, 2003.
The source said ACM Sukumpol encouraged all military officers to propose a solution to the problem, for example, extending the time served prior to promotion for those in the ranks ranging from sub-lieutenant, lieutenant and captain.
The present regulations require those in such ranks to serve for 12 years before they are eligible to be promoted to major.
However, the minister suggested that prolonging the 12-year service record would be needed as officers with these ranks were the manpower most in demand in the military.
Promoting them too quickly would result in excess numbers of those with the rank of major, he said, and this would rapidly increase the number of generals.
“It’s not that we are already generals and feel we can come up with this idea. Future generations will probably blame us for this. But we have to do it and accept the pain,” ACM Sukumpol said.