Long-delayed military reshuffle approved

Published on September 08, 2005

After a long wait of three weeks in suspense, the list of annual military reshuffle had the royal endorsement today (Thursday).

The appointments for 620 military positions were a mixture of military traditions, political tampering and favouritism to a point of being insensitive to the public opinion.

Lt General Pisal Watanawong-khiree was promoted to a full general filling in the Defence Ministry even though he was sidelined following his botched supervision of the Tak Bai anti-riot operation in October.

In another appointment, Lt General Paisal Katanyu was also elevated to the position of assistant Army commander-in-chief. He was a key commander in charge of dispersing the crowd in the Bloody May incident in 1995.

ďThe military rotations received the royal approval as per the list of nominations submitted by the government,Ē Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said.

When the government recommended for the military line-up on August 18, Air Chief Marshal Raden Puengpak was the top contender to lead the Air Force.

In the todayís Royal cammand for military service, Raden was appointed as deputy supreme commander. His career was on a crash landing following a Bt90 million scandal stemming from a helicopter repair project.

Many officers seen as close to Thaksin were promoted to plum positions.

The promotions for Thaksinís pre-cadet classmates included Maj General Anupong Phaochinda, the commanding general of the First Army Region and Maj General Chirasit Kesakomol, the commander of the First Army Corp.

With Thaksinís blessing, Lt General Pornchai Kranlert was elevated to a full general serving as assistant Army commander-in-chief.

In the Defence Ministry, General Sirichai Thanyasiri was appointed the permanent secretary for Defence. Before his promotion, the prime minister had named him to lead the Southern Border Provinces Peace-building Command.

Another Thaksinís supporter, Lt General Trairong Intarathat was elevated to a full general serving as chief adviser for the defence minister.

For the Supreme Command Headquarters, General Ruangroj Masaranont was appointed the supreme commander succeeding General Chaisit Shinawatra.

Chaisit pushed through the Ruangrojís appointment inspite of criticism that his successor would serve as a stop-gap leader for one year before retirement.

To serve under Ruangroj were General Boonsarng Niampradit as deputy supreme commander and General Lertrat Ratanavanich as chief of joint staff.

General Songkitti Jakrabatr, seen as a Thaksinís ally, would become Lertratís deputy.

Lt General Pathompong Kesornsuk, husband of veteran Democrat Khunying Supatra Masdit, was named the commander of National Defence Studies Institute.

Although Pathompongís appointment was considered a promotion, his new position was not coveted in the military hierachy.

For the Army, General Sonthi Boonyarataklin was elevated to the position of commander-in-chief. He was a first Muslim to secure the Army topmost position.

With professional experience in special warfare, Sonthi is expected to rely on paramilitary operations to quell violence in the three southernmost provinces.

Serving as Sonthiís chief of staff was Lt General Sophon Silpipat.

Lt General Sujet Watanasuk and Lt General Saprang Kalayanamit would lead the Second Army Region and the Third Army Region respectively.

For the Navy, Admiral Satirapan Keyanon was appointed to the position of commander-in-chief. He previously served as deputy supreme commander.

Admiral Vinai Yuwananggoon was named Satirapanís deputy.

Vice Admiral Wiraphol Waranont was the chief of staff and Vice Admiral Nopporn Achawakom was the commander of Royal Thai Fleet.

In the Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Chalit Pukbhasuk was the commander-in-chief.

As Raden was moved upstairs, his rival Air Chief Marshal Thares Punsri was also transferred out of the armed forces to serve as deputy permanent secretary for Defence Ministry.

Top Air force positions had undergone a complete turn-over under Chalitís leadership.

Air Marshal Sukamphol Suwannathat was promoted to the position of chief of staff and Air Marshal Sommai Dabphet was the commander of Air Combat Command.

The military rotations will take effect on October 1.

The new line-up included 192 officers elevated to two-star generals, including eight female officers.

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