Military watchers in several media outlets seem to think that the selection of the next Army boss was “out of the box” because the choice was not from the dominant faction.
The Bangkok Post reported General Chalermchai Sitthisart’s appointment as causing friction between General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his elder, General Prawit Wongsuwan. Prawit is said to have wanted another officer.
The Post reckons The Dictator “went for an army chief from outside of the ‘Tiger of the East’ ranks to quash the growing assumption of a leadership monopoly which could sow seeds of distrust and stoke conflict within the army.”
The argument was that “unity in the force has never been more important at a time when the country is transitioning back to democratic rule…”.
That’s where we got lost. No such transition is likely. What drives The Dictator and his junta is making sure that they control Thailand’s faux democracy after an “election.”
Unity means loyalty and a deep determination to defeat the Thaksin Shinawatra “regime.”
This is why the other key appointment is Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong as commander of the 1st Region Army. Apirat has shown a merciless hatred of the red shirts. He will shoot to kill if required.
That kind of loyalty is critical to the junta’s political ambitions into the future.
Another report at Reuters was a little odd. It states:
Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Friday endorsed a new army chief in an annual reshuffle, an appointment from outside the faction that has dominated the army for several years, surprising some experts.
We don’t think the king could do anything like this while hooked up to myriad life support systems. How are such “endorsements” occurring? Who is signing? No regent has been appointed so the assumption is that the king is able and understands what’s happening. That seems unlikely.
Update: The Bangkok Post has more on General Chalermchai’s appointment. It identifies him as a member of the “red beret” special army combat unit. It states that he is “known to enjoy the support of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda and privy councillor and former prime minister Gen Surayud Chulanont, who is also a red beret.”