Thailand's King endorses annual military reshuffle

Thai soldiers train for the upcoming cremation ceremony of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Aug 31, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Friday (Sept 1) endorsed the annual reshuffle of 990 senior military officers, with a balance of officers from different factions moving into top positions.

The reshuffle is always scrutinised carefully for indications as to which factions within the powerful military are in the ascendancy.

A 2014 coup reinforced the military's authority and although elections are promised next year, a new constitution gives the generals an important say for years to come.

As the first appointments since the King took the throne after the death of his father last year, the 2017 reshuffle was even more closely watched.

General Sasin Thongpakdee, the current army chief of staff, who belongs to the army's cavalry faction was appointed Deputy Army Chief, according to the Thai Government Royal Gazette.

Lieutenant-General Apirat Kongsompong, the current commander of the first army who belongs to the powerful King's Guard faction, was appointed Assistant Army Chief.

Lieutenant-General Weerachai Intusophon, the current chief of the Territorial Defence Command who is part of the Burapha Payak or "Eastern Tigers" military faction that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha belongs to, was appointed Assistant Army Chief as well.

These positions are often stepping stones to the post of the head of the army, widely seen as the most important post in the armed forces.

General Chalermchai Sitthisart, the current Army Chief, will remain in post until his retirement next year.

Other important appointments include General Theppong Tippayachan, the current assistant army chief and a member of the "Eastern Tigers" faction, being appointed the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence.

General Thanchaiyan Srisuwan, the current head of the joint chiefs of staff was appointed as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

The appointments officially take effect from Oct 1.

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