Prayut sets sights on reshuffling military

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BANGKOK (Bangkok Post) – Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will put this year’s military reshuffle among his first priorities when he starts working at the Defence Ministry on July 30.

The premier, who succeeds former defence minister Prawit Wongsuwon, will hold “unofficial talks” with a circle of armed forces chiefs about the reshuffle, which is scheduled to be finished by the middle of next month, a Defence Ministry source told the Bangkok Post on Sunday.

Among the reshuffle list, Chief of Air Staff Maanat Wongwat is tipped to become the new commander of the Royal Thai Air Force, the source said. It is expected to be the biggest change in the military top brass as air force chief ACM Chaiyapruk Didyasarin will retire this year.

Transfers in other armed forces are also being prepared to put senior officers at ranks that will enable them to vie for the top jobs at the army, the navy and the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, the source said.

Army commander Apirat Kongsompong, navy commander Ruechai Ruddit and the chief of the Defence Forces, Pornpipat Benyasri, will all retire next year.

It is believed First Army chief Narongphan Chitkaeothae will be promoted to a general and will work as an assistant army chief, the source said. This will pave the way for First Army Corps’ Thammanun Withi to become Lt Gen Narongphan’s successor.

Third navy commander Sitthiphon Matkasem is likely to be promoted to an admiral and take a job as an assistant navy chief, the source said.

This will pit him against navy chief of staff Chatchai Siworakhan, who will assume the role of a deputy navy chief.

At the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, deputy chief of staff Pariphat Phalasin will compete with army expert Chaloemphon Sisawat, who is backed by Gen Apirat, for chief of staff, a rank that will prepare them for a race for the chief of the Defence Forces next year, the source said.

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