New head of Thai army confirmed: Report

A soldier manning the weapon on his vehicle.
A soldier manning the weapon on his vehicle. PHOTO: REUTERS

A new head of the Thai army has been confirmed as part of a military reshuffle endorsed by the King, according to a report.

General Thirachai Nakwanich, assistant army chief, will succeed General Udomdej Sitabutr, who will retire at the end of September.

The reshuffle list was published in the Royal Gazette on Friday night after receiving the King's endorsement, said the Bangkok Post.

Preecha Chan-o-cha, another assistant army commander, will become the permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry.

The younger brother of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had been tipped as a contender, reportedly with backing from Gen Udomdej, although he was in the same class as Gen Thirachai at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School, said the Post.

Gen Thirachai was believed to be the choice of Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, as his career included service in the Burapha Phayak, or Tigers of the East, at the 2nd Infantry Division in Prachin Buri province.

The army leader-in-waiting commanded the 1st Army in charge of Bangkok and central provinces before being promoted to his present post. The group played a key role in the coup last year led by Gen Prayut, then the army chief.

Gen Preecha came to army headquarters after serving as commander of the 3rd Army, with responsibility for security in the northern region.

The new navy commander will be Admiral Na Areenij, currently chief-of-staff, the Post reported. He edged out assistant navy chief Narongpol Na Bangchang.

Admiral Na emerged as the frontrunner at the last minute after the defence minister reportedly made it known that he wanted to keep the tradition of reserving the top navy job only for graduates of the Naval Academy.

Admiral Narongpol, who is an expert on submarines, studied at the German naval institution.