Appointment of military allies hints at concern about security

Appointment of military allies hints at concern about security
Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The first group consists of those who deserve his gratitude, including former Army chiefs General Prawit Wongsuwan and General Anupong Paochinda, both of whom are Prayuth's retired former bosses. Prawit is now deputy prime minister and defence minister, and Anupong is the interior minister in the new 32-strong Cabinet.

Prawit is expected to oversee the interim government's security affairs.

General Prayuth, who has retained his seats as head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and Army commander-in-chief, has much respect for and confidence in Prawit and Anupong.

The second group consists of Prayuth's close friends who he believes deserve rewards and important posts. These include General Chatchai Sarikalya, who is the new commerce minister, General Dapong Ratanasuwan, the natural resources and environment minister, General Tanasak Patimapragorn, deputy prime minister and foreign minister, and General Surasak Kanjanarat, the new labour minister.

Subordinates will be "his limbs"

All four of these officers, who are to retire at the end of this month, are Prayuth's former classmates at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.

The third group consists of his trusted subordinates who are to act as his "limbs" in his Cabinet. These include Lt-General Surachet Chaiwong, who is deputy education minister, General Paiboon Koomchaya, who is justice minister, and General Udomdej Sitabutr, who is deputy defence minister.

Udomdej, who is also deputy Army chief, is tipped to replace Prayuth as head of the Army next month.

In addition to the inclusion of many military men, the appointment of National Intelligence Agency director Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana as the Prime Minister's Office minister also indicates that Prayuth is focusing on security affairs, at a time when the junta believes there are still threats to the newly formed government by old power cliques.

Suwaphan, who has worked closely with the Armed Forces, was approached shortly before his appointment to the Cabinet, according to a source familiar with the matter. It appears Prayuth wanted him to help with possible threats from the new unelected administration's political enemies.

Suwaphan was ignored by the previous government led by the Pheu Thai Party, which trusted the police more. After the coup, he worked closely with military intelligence units in cracking down on gangs of armed men allegedly employed by politicians to attack protesters who took to the streets of Bangkok against the previous elected government. Many suspected gunmen have been arrested and a lot of war weapons reportedly confiscated.

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