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General Saprang unwittingly lands himself in trouble

By Veera Prateepchaikul

General Saprang Kalayanamitr might credit himself as a hero for helping to overthrow the Thaksin regime last September. But to be a hero in the hearts of the people, he must act like one.

The "Little Big Man" of the Council for National Security (CNS), Gen Saprang shot to fame last year for his fearless criticism of then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra while most of his peers in the military chose to keep their mouths shut for self-preservation. He earned the reputation of being an outspoken officer who minces no words against those whom he deems are in the wrong, especially Thaksin and his cronies.

Of late however, Gen Saprang's tongue-lashing did very little to save him from an awkward situation related to his visit to Britain and Germany as head of a delegation of the Airports of Thailand.

Thai Rak Thai members cried foul against the Gen, accusing him of including one of his relatives in the delegation of 13 people. They also claimed that the delegation spent more than six million baht for the overseas junket, supposedly to observe management of security maintenance and traffic control at airports of the two countries.

Gen Saprang was still on the inspection trip when the allegations emerged. But upon his arrival home early this week, he was greeted with a small army of reporters who unhesitantly fired questions at him in connection with the allegations.

Apparently disturbed by the TRT's accusations, Gen Saprang did not deny or admit the presence of a relative on the tour.

He simply said: "If you knew my character, you would know that even if a relative joined the trip he should have realised that he should work hard. An inspection trip, in my definition, means work for security matters and there is no fun trip for me."

When asked why he had to bring with him so many people in the delegation, Gen Saprang said the number of people was not an issue. What mattered was that everyone had work to do. He further said that the seven million baht spent for the whole trip was not an important issue either when asked by a reporter whether the money spent was well worth it.

Those who have heard what Gen Saprang said might not share his views.

For instance, the seven million baht expenditure was an issue. People cannot be happy if tax revenues are not properly spent. The number of people in the delegation certainly did matter - because if there were more people the spending would increase accordingly.

Even worse would be if any of the expense-paid delegates were outsiders who had nothing to do with the Airports Authority of Thailand.

Tasked with overseeing the probes into all the corruption cases involving the Suvarnbhumi airport, Gen Saprang should have realised that he himself has become a target of close scrutiny by the Thai Rak Thai and his political opponents who are looking for anything which can be used to discredit him. Unfortunately though for Gen Saprang, he seemed to have blundered by including a relative on the overseas tour.

Gen Saprang might pride himself for being a hero for his contribution in bringing down the Thaksin regime in the military coup of last Sept 19.

For being a hero in the hearts of the people, he must act like one and not just speak like one. And as a supremo of the Suvarnabhumi airport corruption busters, he must be not only impeccably honest and clean. He must be seen to be honest and clean.

© Copyright The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 2006
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