Succession line to secure army loyalty

Succession line to secure army loyalty

Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong pays his respects to the statue of King Rama V at the Royal Thai Army head office on Thursday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong pays his respects to the statue of King Rama V at the Royal Thai Army head office on Thursday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

Outgoing army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong has prepared a succession plan for those who would secure the army top job in the next three years and beyond, according to a source.

Gen Apirat is retiring at the end of next month and the public is speculating on who will replace him.

The source yesterday said that Gen Apirat wants the army to be led by someone who can be trusted by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, adding no matter what happens, the armed forces will always be on the prime minister's side.

Assistant army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae will succeed Gen Apirat as the new army commander until his retirement in 2023, the source said.

Lt Gen Charoenchai Hinthao, 1st Corps commander, is now in line to succeed Gen Narongphan in 2024 until he retires, the source added.

Both men completed the elite red-rim King's Guard training, the source said, adding Lt Gen Charoenchai now also serves as deputy chief of the special task force under Royal Guard 904.

The source noted Lt Gen Charoenchai is highly trusted by Gen Prayut as they both served together and made career advancements during their time with the 21st Infantry Regiment Queen's Guard.

The experience explains why Gen Prayut supports his younger "brother", who will someday rise to the top job, the source said.

Meanwhile, Maj Gen Songwit Noonpakdee, deputy chief of the 1st Army who was previously a candidate for the 1st Army commander position, is said to have been made a deputy army chief of staff instead.

The source said even though Maj Gen Songwit was sidelined, he still has a chance as Gen Narongphan could conduct an army reshuffle in the future.

Maj Gen Songwit is also a red-rim soldier and has an important role in the special task force under Royal Guard 904, said the source.


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