Sunday, August 1, 2010

And the next Army Chief is......

Most military analysts here say unless there is a last-minute earthshaking turnaround, the new army commander-in-chief will be Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, replacing Gen Anupong Paochinda.

This will mark the rise of the so-called "Burapha Payak" faction within the army, the other being "Wong Thewan" which has been struggling hard, albeit behind the scenes, to prevent the former from assuming absolute control over the army ranks.

Burapha Payak means "Tiger of the East" has been boosted because of Gen Anupong's wide-ranging influence in the past few years. "Wong Thewan" meanwhile comprises mostly army generals from powerful families, some of whom have been politically active.

Gen Prayuth's rise will further strengthen the position of the current crops of army leaders who have worked closely with the ruling Democrat Party through Deputy PM Suthep Thuagsuban.

The army's top brass, who have been trying to remain officially "neutral" under Gen Anupong's leadership, are expected to become more assertive on security issues particularly when they are linked to political conflicts.

Whatever the outcome of the next general election, and whoever becomes the new PM, the new army chief seems bent on a "no-nonsense" stance in dealing with what they consider "acts if terrorism" be they of political and security nature.

While Gen Anupong is seen to be diplomatic and political savvy, Gen Prayuth is considered more outspoken and "a man of action."

What that means in practical terms will depend on how the politicians play their games from now until his scheduled retirement -- in four years.

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