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Army chief takes aim at ‘red’ officers

Posted by arnon_k On October - 19 - 2010

New army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has wasted no time in wielding his power by ordering a reshuffle of 229 senior officers.

The rejig has led to the transfer of regimental commanders reportedly linked with the red shirt movement.

Among them is Col Natthawat Akanibut, son of Gen Pat Akkanibut, who is a close friend of Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.

He has been removed as commander of the 1st Infantry Regiment (King’s Guards) and becomes deputy commander of Kanchanaburi Military District.

“His transfer can be considered as a promotion although it’s a bit off the track [to the force control unit],” an army source said.

Col Pongsawas Phanchit, director of the Operations Division of the 1st Army, was appointed to replace Col Natthawat.

A source said the reason for his transfer was that Col Natthawat had been in charge of the Bangkok-based 1st Infantry Regiment for three years. Gen Prayuth was not confident Col Natthawat could carry out his work any longer. Also, he was connected to Gen Chavalit.

“Gen Prayuth is still concerned about soldiers who are close to the red shirts,” the source said.

Col Apirat Kongsompong, commander of the 11th Infantry Regiment (King’s Guards) which played a key role in dealing with red shirt demonstrators, remains with the regiment despite the fact he has been at the helm for four years.

Other intriguing transfers include the promotion of Col Kiat Srinaka, commander of the 2nd Infantry Regiment (Queen’s Guards), one of the influential military clique called Burapha Payak. He is to become deputy commander of the 2nd Infantry Division. Col Kiat played a key role in the clash with red shirt demonstrators at the Khok Wua intersection on April 10.

The latest transfers are viewed as a move to ensure Gen Prayuth has reliable subordinates who can follow his orders to the letter.

It was reported some military units did not deal with the red shirt protesters as he wanted.

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