The new secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC), Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanathabutr, has admitted he was appointed to the post partly because of his close relations with ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
"I did not just come completely out of the blue and become the NSC secretary-general," Lt Gen Paradorn recently told the Bangkok Post in an exclusive interview.
Lt Gen Paradorn has been promoted from NSC deputy secretary-general, replacing Pol Gen Wichean Potephosree, a former national police chief, who was transferred to the post of permanent secretary for transport. The appointments took effect on Oct 1.
Lt Gen Paradorn has brushed aside criticism of his close ties to Thaksin.
Both men are natives of Chiang Mai and their families have long enjoyed cordial relations.
Lt Gen Korbbun Pattanathabutr, Lt Gen Paradorn's father, was a friend of Lert Shinawatra, Thaksin's father.
"We are like brothers. I have known him since we were children. I have been impressed with his business acumen and his vision," Lt Gen Paradorn said about Thaksin.
"While my relations with Thaksin were helpful in making me the NSC chief, I needed to have the capabilities and right qualifications, too," he said. "Most importantly, I have been working at the NSC for a long time.
"It's also about the right timing, as many who now hold top posts at state security agencies in the armed forces and the police force are my classmates of Class 14 at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School."
The NSC chief was referring to Gen Udomdej Seetabutr, the army's chief of staff, Gen Nipat Thonglek, deputy permanent secretary for defence, Pol Lt Gen Kamronwit Thoopkrachang, chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau and Pol Lt Gen Saritchai Anekwiang, chief of the Special Branch Police.
Lt Gen Paradorn said the NSC secretary-general must be someone selected by the government and must be someone the prime minister can trust with state secrets to oversee national security.
"So if there is a change in government, I must be ready for a transfer, which is just a fact of life," he said.
Lt Gen Paradorn said it is important the NSC secretary-general should be a soldier, as the role requires handling security issues both at home and with neighbouring countries.
Of the 16 NSC secretary-generals, only three were civilians, he said, adding that the NSC chief reports directly to the Prime Minister's Office.
"Without a change in administration, I believe I will stay on as the NSC secretary-general until I retire in 2015," Lt Gen Paradorn said.
He said the tasks of the NSC will be to avoid war and to try to reduce factors which contribute to domestic conflicts and with neighbouring countries.
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- Writer: Wassana Nanuam