Army chief retires after four turbulent years

national September 30, 2014 01:00

By The Nation

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General Prayut Chan-o-cha's four full years as Army commander-in-chief ends today, with his mandatory retirement starting tomorrow.

It has been an eventful four years full of problems, changes and conflicts.
It is rare for an Army chief to serve a full term. And it must have been even more difficult to serve at a time when the Army is full of internal problems and the country has experienced political strife.
There have also been security problems – insurgency in the deep South and border conflicts with neighbours such as Cambodia.
Prayut will now focus on running the country as prime minister and also as chief of the National Council for Peace and Order.
In October 2010, Prayut replaced General Anupong Paochinda as the 37th Army chief. That was a few months after severe political unrest in Bangkok left more than 90 people dead and some 2,000 injured.
Earlier that year, thousands of anti-government red shirts staged weeks of protests that began in March, shortly after the Supreme Court seized Bt46 billion in assets off former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra after a ruling that the money had been earned dishonestly. 
The protests led to riots and arson attacks in many locations in the capital. Provincial halls in some northeastern provinces were also burnt down by red-shirt protesters.
During his tenure as Army chief, Prayut maintained unity within the 200,000-strong Army as it faced a problem of pro-red military officers creating “undercurrents”. 
There was also political and social pressure against the Army, stemming from the fact it was involved in the deadly operations in 2010 to reclaim sites in Bangkok from red-shirt protesters.
However, the flood crisis in late 2011 appeared to be a boon in disguise for the Army. Thousands of troops were sent to help flood victims, and they managed to win much praise from the public.
The government at that time, led by Yingluck Shinawatra from the Pheu Thai Party, opted not to replace Prayut in order to avoid possible repercussions or conflict with the military. 
While in office Prayut implemented a 10-year plan to improve the armed force’s efficiency in terms of personnel and weaponry.
Yesterday, he took part in a ceremony at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in Nakhon Nayok in honour of the 262 retiring Army generals.

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