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Navy Seal chief may quit if sent to an inactive post

Move follows reports some officers worked as guards in political rallies

The chief of the Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Admiral Winai Klom-in, said yesterday the decision on whether to transfer him was up to the Royal Thai Navy commander-in-chief Admiral Narong Pipatanasai.

Winai said he had not thought about resigning and would respect Narong's decision as he had been in the current position for three years. However, he was a working man, so he might consider quitting if he were transferred to an inactive post, or came under too much pressure from politics.

Defence Ministry permanent secretary General Nipat Thonglek said he was waiting for the Election Commission to approve the military reshuffle list before passing it to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The list is expected to arrive by Monday. Yingluck would then undersign and submit it for royal endorsement.

According to the law, a caretaker government needs the EC to approve such reshuffles, to prevent moves for electoral advantage.

Nipat said Yingluck, who is also caretaker defence minister, was not part of the proposal to transfer Winai. It was a move by Narong to take responsibility after many SEALs officers were found involved in the political rallies.

Winai said yesterday his agency had not taken part in political activities, but some officers might have wanted to protect people from danger.

An anti-government protest faction, the Students' and People's Network for Thailand's Reform (STR), rallied at the Royal Thai Navy headquarters yesterday and submitted a letter asking the navy chief to review his decision to transfer Winai.

STR leader Nitithorn Lamlua said Winai's transfer was political interference. There had been attempts to remove Winai and other military personnel for some time who were deemed to be in the anti-government camp.

Petition to His Majesty

Meanwhile, another activist group led by Lt-Colonel Kamolpan Cheewa-pansri rallied yesterday and submitted a petition to His Majesty via the Royal Household Bureau and the Defence Ministry to "seek justice" for Winai.

But Nipat said that as far as he knew, only a "damaged" party could file such a petition.

A government source, who asked not to be named, said that among the officers set to be transferred this time was Lt-General Walit Rojjana-phakdee, who was seriously injured when he was the commander of the 2nd Infantry Division deployed during the red-shirt protest crackdown at Khok Wua Intersection in 2010 and now commander of the First Army Corp. He is expected to be promoted as Fourth Army Region commander.

Meanwhile, Maj-General Varah Boonyasit, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, is expected to be promoted as deputy commander of the First Army Region.


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