Thai coup generals were PMA graduates

- Jaime Laude () - October 4, 2006 - 12:00am
One of the top senior Thai Royal Army officials who mounted a successful coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra last month graduated at the top of his class at the Philippine Military Academy in 1981.

In fact, Maj. Gen. Thawip Netniyom, spokesman for the Council for Democratic Reform in the post-Thaksin regime, never misses important class meetings and reunions here.

"He’s (Thawip) an upright student-cadet who easily gained the respect of his Filipino classmates despite him being a foreign student in the academy," said a "mistah" of Thawip who is also a senior military officer in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Several of Thawip’s PMA squadmates described him as a man of courage for never faltering in his commitment to graduate from the Philippines’ premiere military school despite being subjected to various hardships by upperclassmen.

"Despite the odds, he even excelled and graduated on top of our class," said another classmate of Thawip, adding the Thai’s chief rival in the "Dimalupig Class 1981" was a Singporean, whom he did not name.

While Thawip and his group succeeded in removing Thaksin, some of his PMA classmates associated with the past failed coups against the Arroyo administration are now under investigation.

Aside from Thawip, another Thai PMA graduate belonging to Class 1976 played a key role in the ouster of Thaksin, who faces massive graft allegations.

Maj. Gen. Tumrongsak Deemongkol discreetly worked with the Army leaderships to get rid of the Thaksin government.

Director Jesus Versoza, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, recalled that Tumrongsak was fondly called "Tuy" by his mistahs.

Versoza said the Thai PMA graduate was "bright in math but quite poor in English."

"This was probably why he always brought a dictionary with him during class," Versoza told The STAR. "Magaling ‘yan at mabait."

Like Thawip, Tumrongsak was an honor student, graduating No. 8 in his class.

Cordillera Administrative Region police director Chief Superintendent Jefferson Soriano, another mistah of Tumrongsak, attributed his idealism to the discipline and education inculcated in PMA cadets.

Thawip’s mistahs said they are again expecting him this month if he so decides to attend the PMA Foundation Day.

Known for being a straightforward and highly disciplined officer, Thawip commanded the Thai army’s armor unit that surrounded and secured key government and private establishments in the capital Bangkok in last month’s coup.

"Sometimes, to break the deadlock, someone has to do something. Just like when your computer is hung and you cannot do anything about it, what you’re going to do is push the reset button or unplug it, and that’s the only way to solve it," Thawip declared in one of his pronouncements defending the military takeover.

Seeing Thawip on television, his PMA classmates expressed no surprise why their mistah joined the military rebellion. They said they never doubted Thawip’s character, describing him as someone always ready to fight for what he believes is right.

After graduating from the PMA in 1981, Thawip took other foreign military studies where he was said to have also excelled.

Another classmate said he had high respect for his Thai classmate not really for graduating with honors, but for exerting effort to learn Tagalog.

"Nakakatuwa dahil kahit hirap na hirap siya, nakaintindi at natuto siyang mag-Tagalog
(It was amusing because he managed to understand and speak Tagalog in spite of the difficulties)," said the classmate.

"Buti pa siya, marunong manindigan para sa bayan
(Good for him that he knows how to stand up for his country)," he noted, lamenting how some PMA graduates have already forgotten their alma mater’s motto — courage, integrity and loyalty — in exchange for their own personal gains. — With Christina Mendez

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