NCPO, army alliance leaves reds in the cold
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NCPO, army alliance leaves reds in the cold

The impeachment of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra by an overwhelming 190:18 votes has given rise to anxiety among some people that the "Thaksin regime" will seek political revenge.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha greets Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon with a wai. The bond between the two generals is solid and strong. Apichart Jinakul

But the unity between the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the army simply makes it tough for the Thaksin faction to make a counter-move against the coup-makers. Actually, any moves − on Thai soil or abroad − may instigate political difficulties which would give justification for the NCPO to stay in political power for longer.

Over the past months, those on opposite sides have stuck to traditional tactics — milling the rumours in an obvious bid to create a rift between Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his "big brother", Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon. Among the rumours were those concerning political bargaining between Gen Prawit and Thaksin over the impeachment bid to ensure that Ms Yingluck would remain unscathed. Gen Prawit denied the rumours, while Gen Prayut frowned upon the idea.

Gen Prawit has even been linked to the much talked about appointment of People's Democratic Reform Committee spokeswoman Chitpas Kridakorn as a member of a working group for Natural Resources and Environment Minister Dapong Rattanasuwan. There are claims he was the one who gave the order. In fact, before the appointment saga, there were rumours the deputy prime minister had wanted a place for Ms Chitpas, the Singha heiress, on the government spokesman team. Gen Prawit dismissed the rumours, which may stem from the fact that Ms Chitpas often turns up as a guest at military events, some hosted by Gen Prawit. More importantly, her brother, who has finished his studies in England, is a new recruit at the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence, and again, rumour has it that he is applying for a position at the 21st Infantry Regiment Queen's Guard to join the so-called "Queen's Musketeers" military clique.

But those rumours do not affect the bond between the two generals.

Instead, Gen Prayut places deeper trust in his "big brother". He has just appointed Gen Prawit as the head of a committee to push the NCPO's strategies for national development.

The committee, with Somkid Jatusripitak as vice-chairman, is also assigned to monitor the performance of all government agencies. Mr Somkid is chairman of the NCPO's advisory board. Most of the committee members are army big shots, including the permanent secretary for defence, commanders of the armed forces, Minister for Natural Resources and the Environment Dapong Rattanasuwan; Wilat Arunsri; secretary-general to the Prime Minister; ACM Thaworn Maneepruek, adviser to the Defence Minister and Gen Anantaporn Kanchanarat as secretary. The committee has the nickname of "the NCPO's military cabinet" because of the heavy presence of the men in green. Civilian members are cabinet secretary-general Ampon Kitti-ampon and Deputy Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.

In the second meeting, Gen Prawit set up several sub-committees − each headed by top brass members who are to intensively monitor and ensure that state agencies promptly implement the Prayut government's policies and streamline their work.

The division of labour sees Gen Prawit and Mr Somkid take charge of poverty reduction and economic gap bridging, finance and budget, state enterprises, and commerce. The work arrangement, however, prompts some observers to compare its mandate with that of Deputy Prime Minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula's economic team.

Army commander Udomdej Sitabutr oversees police, combating drugs, security, and central and local administration.

Permanent defence secretary Gen Sirichai Ditthakul chairs a sub-panel for policies related to industries, energy, agriculture, international relations and foreign affairs.

Jobs are distributed among the remaining top brass: Supreme Commander Gen Worapong Sanganet overseeing a sub-committee on tourism, sports, border trade and special economic zones; navy commander ADM Krisorn Chansuwanit on fisheries, transport, logistics, and labour; and air force commander ACM Trithot Sonchaeng on education, science, technology, ICT and health.

Gen Dapong, who oversees all of the NCPO's strategies, serves as coordinator between the NLA and NRC.

In order to make the performance of the "super panel" smooth, Gen Udomdej named three top officers as deputies at the office of the NCPO secretary-general. The three are Gen Chatchalerm Chalermsuk, army chief-of-staff; Gen Suchart Nongbua, army specialist; and Lt Gen Chart-udom Titthasiri; deputy army chief-of-staff.

Gen Prawit said as the super panel is working in parallel with the Prayut cabinet, it will meet at Kesa Komol mansion every Tuesday afternoon when the cabinet meeting is over.

Gen Prawit said the super panel does not intend to find fault with state agencies. It's duty is to support state agencies in implementing government policies. Despite the massive power of the super panel, and the format that makes it look like a "shadow cabinet," Gen Prawit has made it clear he does not want to be regarded as the "second prime minister".

After all, it's Gen Prayut who initiated this super-panel idea and decided to place this significant task in his "big brother's" hands.

Wassana Nanuam is a senior news reporter covering military affairs for the Bangkok Post.

Wassana Nanuam

Senior news reporter

Wassana Nanuam is a senior news reporter covering military affairs for the Bangkok Post.

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