A unit of elite soldiers, the Royal Security Command, has been transferred to come under the authority of the Defence Ministry in its administrative streamlining of protective duties for the royal family.
Reporting directly to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, the command will be assigned to provide security for the royal family, as well as take charge of administrative affairs for the palace and His Royal Highness.
The unit, which comprises six battalions of soldiers, will be placed on the Defence Ministry's payroll, permanent secretary for defence Niphat Thonglek said, rather than the army's as in the past.
The unit has already started recruiting new officers. Once accepted, the recruits will undergo a four-term, 26-week training programme. During the first three terms of this training course, the recruits will be given a monthly allowance from His Royal Highness starting at 2,000 baht per month.
That allowance increases to 9,000 baht per month when the guards enter their fourth training term, which lasts six weeks.
After the training is completed, each recruit will continue to receive the 9,000-baht allowance while waiting to be formally accepted into the command. They are then placed on a three-year probationary period, though that may be shortened if their conduct is deemed good enough.
All officers accepted into the command will also be eligible to undergo specialist training programmes such as parachuting and ranger training. They will be treated and get benefits similar to palace officers. The training programmes begin next month.
The Royal Guard 904, which has been upgraded to form the command, is well recognised for its strict discipline and professionalism. The officers are thoroughly screened to ensure competency.
The elite skills of the Royal Guard 904 were put on display at the most recent Ultimate Soldier contest. The contest was created by army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who said it aims to create a new breed of elite soldiers, similar to the Navy Seals or Air Force commandos.
Every army unit is instructed to form a six-member team to undergo special training, with the annual Ultimate Soldier contest is held to select the best team. The most recent event was taken out by an all-female team from the Royal Guard 904.
Gen Prayuth congratulated the winning team, saying: ''After seeing their competence, I am confident these officers are fit for the duty of providing security for the royal family.''
There have, however, been recent attempts to link the creation of the Royal Security Command to the political conflict. Fake documents were released saying the command had assigned 3,000 of its officers to take care of the prime minister, seemingly in an attempt to draw the monarchy into the ongoing political unrest.
Permanent secretary for defence Gen Niphat Thonglek confirmed no such order had been issued, as did ACM Sathitpong Sukwimol, secretary to the Crown Prince.
''The command has nothing to do with politics. Its main duty is to provide security to members of the royal family,'' Gen Nipat said.
Wassana Nanuam is a senior news reporter covering military affairs for the Bangkok Post.