Four officers in running to succeed Prayuth, who is due to retire shortly but tipped to be PM
Deputy Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr appears the front runner candidate to succeed General Prayuth Chan-ocha as the head of the Army.
Prayuth, who is in charge of the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), is due to retire
at the end of September.
It is not yet certain which military general Prayuth would appoint to manage the country’s military if he decides against extending his time at the helm.
Four top military leaders who have one year left in office are qualified to succeed Prayuth.
Along with Prayuth's deputy Udomdej and assistant Army chief Paiboon Koomchaya , the other front runners appear to be assistant Army chief General Chatchai Sarikalaya and Army chief of staff General Aksara Kerdpol.
The military’s inner circle officials know there are actually two main candidates who are likely to get the powerful Army chief post – Paiboon and Udomdej. Both have played key roles for the NCPO.
Udomdej has been trusted to take up the role of NCPO secretary-general and chair the high-level committee to resolve the southern insurgency - while Paiboon heads the NCPO’s legal and justice sector and handles political groups who refuse to accept the junta’s power.
If either Paiboon or Udomdej miss the chance of getting the Army chief post, one or the other may be given the supreme commander’s post, currently held by General Tanasak Patimaprakorn, or the Defence Ministry permanent-secretary post currently held by General Surasak Kanjanarat. Both generals holding the two posts are due to retire on September 30.
However, there is one obstacle as two other generals also eye the two top posts – General Sirichai Dittakul and General Worapong Sa-nganet, both of whom have close ties with NCPO chief adviser General Prawit Wongsuwan, an influential military figure.
The latest tentative military reshuffle showed that Sirichai may be appointed Defence Ministry permanent-secretary and Worapong made Supreme Commander, while General Sommai Kaodira could be appointed Chief of Staff or Deputy Supreme Commander.
Udomdej is likely to succeed Prayuth as Army chief, with Paiboon is likely to be made deputy Army chief, and Chatchai appointed Army chief adviser. Like Prayuth, Udomdej is from the so-called “Eastern Tigers” (Burapha Payak) clique. There is a high possibility that Prayuth will handpick Udomdej to succeed him.
Paiboon has also played a high-profile role since the military coup on May 22 and if he misses the Army chief post, he may be given the post of Deputy Defence Minister as consolation.