The Defence Council has declared its own plan to reconfigure the armed forces in response to the Move Forward Party (MFP) pressing for military reform.
A council meeting chaired by Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha acknowledged the plan initiated by the Defence Ministry to streamline, downsize and modernise the armed forces on Wednesday, Defence Ministry spokesman Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich said.
The plan has nothing to do with the MFP's military reform push, he said.
The plan started in 2008 and has been carried out in stages every five years, he said, adding that the phase between 2018-2022 and the phase between 2023 and 2027 have been adjusted in line with the 20-year national strategy.
"Gen Prayut told the meeting that the armed forces' reform has already been proceeding in line with the Defence Ministry's plan, and he said it has nothing to do with whoever will form the new government," Gen Kongcheep said.
"The Defence Ministry has already put its own reform plans in place. It was not just because of the urgings of the Move Forward Party.
"But we have already considered some information presented by the party. If it is compatible with our plan, we are ready to act on it," Gen Kong- cheep said.
"The MFP has acted as a catalyst for political and social change, though its policy has nothing to do with the reform plan."
A source said there are currently around 1,200 generals, and the Defence Council proposed halving the number by 2027.
According to a source, the plan includes scrapping the idea of reinforcing the 7th Infantry Division based in Chiang Mai's Mae Rim district and the 3rd Cavalry Infantry in Khon Kaen.
The 7th Infantry Division was established in 2011 during the Democrat-led government, with Gen Prawit Wongsuwon serving as defence minister and Gen Prayut as army chief at the time.
The division was set up to deal with cross-border conflicts in the North, as well as red-shirt groups based in the region, particularly in Chiang Mai, the source said.
Meanwhile, the 3rd Cavalry Division was set up in the Northeast at the suggestion of former prime minister and privy council president Prem Tinsulanonda, in addition to the 1st Calvary Division in the North and the 2nd Cavalry Division in Bangkok, the source said.
MFP deputy leader Phicharn Chaowapatanawong welcomed the Defence Ministry's plan to streamline the armed forces, saying it corresponds to that of the party.
However, he said the success of any military reform would depend on the political will of the new government and the incoming defence minister.
"The armed forces' reform plan is not new. We heard about it four years ago. But we have never seen details about how military personnel will be cut," he said.
Mr Phicharn said the army's move to scrap the plan to reinforce the 7th Infantry Division and the 3rd Cavalry Division is interesting. "But is it possible that the two divisions could be disbanded?" he asked.
Olarn Thinbangtieo, a political science lecturer at Burapha University, said the armed forces' plan intends to slash personnel and cut costs, but it is far removed from the MFP's policy.
"Military personnel have been continually reduced, but this still does not match the MFP's plan," he said. "So it would be wrong for the MFP to claim success in military reform if it becomes the government."
"Several of the MFP's policies are uncompromising. Military reform will remain a major hurdle for the party's success in forming the government. The military top brass will do all they can to stop the party from coming to power."