Roy­al­ist in charge of Thai army

Viet Nam News - - ASIA -

BANGKOK — A new chief of Thai­land’s army took com­mand yes­ter­day, a staunchly roy­al­ist gen­eral who will over­see a re­turn to bar­racks to make way for a civil­ian gov­ern­ment af­ter nearly five years of mil­i­tary rule.

Gen­eral Api­rat Kong­som­pong, 58, be­longs to the King’s Guard fac­tion in the First In­fantry Di­vi­sion of the First Army Re­gion - a group at the very heart of the roy­al­ist mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment.

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the monar­chy, the army and politi­cians is the fun­da­men­tal fac­tor de­ter­min­ing sta­bil­ity in South­east Asia’s sec­ond-big­gest econ­omy.

Api­rat is the son of Gen­eral Sun­thorn Kong­som­pong, who led a 1991 coup that trig­gered a groundswell of op­po­si­tion from a grow­ing mid­dle class, which re­sulted in the mil­i­tary’s re­turn to bar­racks in 1992 for 22 years, un­til the last coup in 2014.

Bangkok’s me­dia por­trays Api­rat as a “trusted lieu­tenant” of Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chanocha, who con­ducted the 2014 when he was army chief, and as a com­man­der who would pre­fer to re­main aloof from pol­i­tics.

“I will do my best for the na­tion and the peo­ple,” Api­rat said in a speech be­fore tak­ing up his post.

Prayuth has promised to hold a gen­eral elec­tion by May un­der a new con­sti­tu­tion that civil­ian crit­ics say is aimed at lim­it­ing the role of po­lit­i­cal par­ties while en­shrin­ing mil­i­tary in­flu­ence.

Prayuth has de­clined to con­firm his plans amid wide­spread me­dia spec­u­la­tion he will seek to stay on in power as an un­elected prime min­is­ter. He has hinted he could take up a pub­lic role af­ter the elec­tion.

The elec­tion will pro­vide a closely watched test of the pop­u­lar­ity of self-ex­iled former premier Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra.

The former ty­coon won wide­spread sup­port in the coun­try­side for pro-poor poli­cies but the an­i­mos­ity of the mil­i­tary-linked Bangkok es­tab­lish­ment, which de­rided his elec­tion-win­ning ways as cor­rupt vote-buy­ing.

King Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn, who as­cended the throne in 2016 fol­low­ing the death of his fa­ther, King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej, ap­pears to have a smooth re­la­tion­ship with the gen­er­als run­ning the coun­try.

Api­rat’s ap­point­ment in­di­cated the con­sol­i­da­tion of that re­la­tion­ship, said Paul Cham­bers, a lec­turer at Nare­suan Univer­sity and a spe­cial­ist on the Thai mil­i­tary.

“The army will likely be­come even closer to the monar­chy,” Cham­bers said. — REUTERS

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Viet Nam

© PressReader. All rights reserved.