ASSISTANT ARMY chief General Apirach Kongsompong is tipped to take over as the new commander-in-chief from incumbent General Chalermchai Sittisart, who retires at the end of September.
Apirach is a graduate from Class 20 of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.
The Defence Council is scheduled to convene a meeting on July 25 to discuss the lists of senior military personnel transfers submitted by the chiefs of the Armed Forces. The meeting is to be presided over by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan. The appointment of commanders are to be announced before fiscal year 2018 ends on September 30.
The Army commander-in-chief is considered the most powerful position in the Thai Armed Forces. Thailand’s coups were often led by an Army chief, including the latest one in May 2014.
The position is one of the top “Five Tigers” commanders in the Army. The four other top Army commanders are the deputy Army chief, two assistant chiefs, and the chief of staff. With Apirach’s promotion, there will be changes among the holders of the remaining positions.
According to a well-informed source, the four other top Army commanders in this year’s transfers are expected to be: Army chief-of-staff General Nattapol Nakpanit to take over as deputy Army chief; First Army Area commander Lt-General Kukiat Srinaka and Third Army Area commander Lt-General Vichak Siribansop are to become assistant chief; and deputy Army chief of staff Lt-General Thirawat Boonyawat is to become the new chief of staff.
In addition to General Chalermchai, the commanders-in-chief of the Navy and the Air Force – Admiral Naris Pratoomsuwan and Air Chief Marshal Johm Rungswang respectively – will also retire this year.
Royal Thai Navy deputy commander-in-chief Admiral Luechai Ruddit is expected to become the new Navy chief. Royal Thai Air Force assistant commander-in-chief ACM Chaiyapruk Didyasarin is tipped to become the new Air Force chief.
Other high-ranking military officers to retire this September are Defence Ministry permanent secretary General Theppong Thippayachan and Royal Thai Armed Forces Supreme Commander General Tarnchaiyan Srisuwan.
Defence Ministry deputy permanent secretary General Nat Intorncharoen is expected to replace Theppong. Armed Forces Command chief of staff General Pornpipat Benyasri is tipped to become the new supreme commander, a job that involves ceremonial matters rather than command of combat personnel.