March 17, 2014 00:00 By PAKORN PUENGNETR
Navy Seals chief tipped for promotion, as well as army commander injured in notorious clash with red shirts
THE OUTSPOKEN Naval Special Warfare Command chief and a |senior Army officer whose promotion was suspended because he was tied to a violent clash with the red-shirts four years ago may be highlights of the mid-year military reshuffle. The reshuffle, which will take effect next month, is expected to be announced today.
The first involves the transfer of Rear Admiral Winai Klom-in, chief of the Naval Special Warfare Command, or Navy Seals.
Sources and earlier reports had stated that Winai will definitely be removed. Anti-government protest groups have petitioned Navy Commander in Chief Admiral Narong Pipatanasai to block the move, but Winai looks set to be kicked upstairs.
However, it is expected that the controversy surrounding Winai’s transfer will die down promptly because he will be promoted to be a vice admiral, although he will also be given an inactive post as a special adviser to the Royal Thai Navy.
Permanent secretary for Defence General Nipat Thonglek said that Winai had overstepped the mark |for military officers by giving interviews in regard to the political |conflict, so he needed to be transferred. Either way, the length of time Winai has been in his post – three years and six months – justifies the transfer.
The second highlight will see First Army Corps Commander Lt General Walit Rojanaphakdee become the Fourth Army Area commander, according to well-informed sources.
The current chief of the Fourth Army Area, Lt Gen Sakol Chuenptrakul, will retire at the end of September, so he will be moved to a position where he becomes a full general before his retirement.
Walit is a younger friend of Army Commander in Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha from the Eastern Tigers faction.
Walit reportedly missed two previous chances to become the commander of the First Army Area because of strong opposition from the red shirts.
The reds opposed Walit being promoted because he commanded the Second Infantry Division, which was involved in a bitter deadly clash with red-shirt protesters at Khok Wua Intersection on April 10, |2010.
During the operation, he was injured in a grenade attack and his close aide, Colonel Romklao Thuwatham, was killed.
According to sources, Prayuth now has the chance to promote his friend to the post of Fourth Army Area commander in the south.
The upcoming mid-year reshuffle will see commanders of the four armed forces transfer close aides and favoured officers to key positions to use them to support of their chosen successors in the annual reshuffle at the end of September.
This year will see all the four commanders-in-chief retire at the same time.
But sources said the Army will remain a thorn in the side of the Pheu Thai-led government after the mid-year reshuffle because Prayuth will put his men, or those close to Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, in key combat command positions.