New Thai army chief pledges defence of monarchy

General Narongpan Jittkaewtae's appointment comes as Thailand faces the challenge of more than two months of anti-government protests.
General Narongpan Jittkaewtae's appointment comes as Thailand faces the challenge of more than two months of anti-government protests.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thailand's new army chief pledged on Tuesday (Sept 29) to follow his predecessor, who has taken a hard line against anti-government groups and he emphasised the importance of protecting the monarchy.

The appointment of General Narongpan Jittkaewtae, in an annual military reshuffle, comes as Thailand's army- and palace-dominated establishment faces the challenge of more than two months of anti-government protests.

Gen Narongpan made no specific mention of the protesters, some of whom have called for reforms to curb the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn's monarchy.

"I pledge to all of you that I will continue the obligations, responsibility, policies and ideology of the army chief, General Apirat Kongsompong, to the fullest of my ability," Gen Narongpan told a military ceremony.

Gen Apirat, moving to a senior position in the royal household, was outspoken in criticising opposition figures, academics and politicians as potential threats to national security.

"I will protect and develop the army so it stands as a key institution of security that sustains the nation and throne," said Gen Narongpan, who will formally take up the new post on Oct 1. He did not take questions from media.

Army appointments are closely scrutinised in Thailand, where soldiers have taken power 13 times since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha first seized power in a 2014 coup.

 
 

Gen Narongpan, 57, belongs to King Vajiralongkorn's own King's Guard faction of the army.