Three generals who opposed Sukumpol transferred

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Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat yesterday transferred three generals who opposed his choice for the new defence permanent secretary to inactive posts.

Under his order issued yesterday afternoon, defence permanent secretary Sathian Phoemthongin, his deputy Chatree Thatti and director-general of the Secretariat Department Pinpas Sariwat were moved to “assist” at the defence minister’s office. The order took effect immediately.

ACM Sukumpol told reporters later the order was intended to streamline the work of the Defence Ministry.

He said it was not right for Gen Sathian to make the Defence Ministry’s internal affairs public.

Under the same order, the minister ordered deputy defence permanent secretary Withawat Ratchatanant to act on Gen Sathian’s behalf.

Deputy defence permanent secretary Rungrat Bunyaratpan was assigned to act on behalf of Gen Chatree, while Charn Komolhiran, deputy director-general of the Secretariat Department, will act on behalf of Gen Pinpas.

ACM Sukumpol said he will explain his actions further today.

A source close to the defence minister said the three transferred generals had drafted a letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to complain about ACM Sukumpol’s alleged interference with the selection of the new defence permanent secretary.

Gen Sathian, who will retire at the end of next month, wants Gen Chatree to succeed him, but ACM Sukumpol wants the position to go to assistant army chief Thanongsak Apirakyothin.

Gen Sathian also lodged complaints with Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda and Privy Councillor Surayud Chulanont.

Gen Sathian looked calm as he left his office at 4.30pm yesterday. He told reporters that he had to speak out about problems at the ministry because his commander was doing wrong.

“I only do what is right. I do not mind being treated this way. The armed forces chiefs will face the same fate. I am the precedent,” Gen Sathian said.

He declined to comment when asked if he would petition against the transfer.

Yesterday, Gen Chatree said he was unsure why he was transferred.

He admitted he was close to Gen Sathian because he was his deputy and had worked with him for a long time.

“I will ask legal experts if it is possible to petition,” Gen Chatree said.

Gen Thanongsak will retire next year. He is a member of Class 11 of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.

Gen Chatree is a member of Class 14 and will retire in 2015. He may be appointed a deputy supreme commander to pave the way for Gen Thanongsak to become the next defence permanent secretary.

ACM Sukumpol will convene a committee tasked with the appointment and reshuffle of generals at the Defence Ministry this Thursday to finalise the nomination of the new defence permanent secretary.

The committee comprises himself, the defence permanent secretary, the supreme commander and the three armed forces chiefs. An acting defence permanent secretary, who has yet to be appointed, will attend the meeting in place of Gen Sathian.

Supreme Commander Thanasak Patimaprakorn, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha and navy chief Surasak Runroengrom support Gen Thanongsak as the next defence permanent secretary.

No one knows who air force chief ACM Itthaporn Subhawong backs.

ACM Itthaporn will retire next month. He is a member of Class 11 at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School like Gen Sathian and Gen Thanongsak.

Gen Thanasak will convene a meeting of the armed forces chiefs tomorrow to ensure they share the same stance.