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Updated: September 2, 2010 17:18 IST

Thai king appoints hardliner as next army chief

DPA
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In this image taken on August 25, 2010, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha looks on at a ceremony in Bangkok. File photo: AP.
In this image taken on August 25, 2010, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha looks on at a ceremony in Bangkok. File photo: AP.

Thailand’s king on Thursday officially appointed a hardliner as the country’s next army chief, deemed a politically powerful post in the coup—prone kingdom. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in his capacity as head of state, signed a royal command appointing the current deputy army chief Prayuth Chan—ocha as the new army chief, television reports said.

He will replace the current army chief, General Anupong Paochinda, on October 1. The appointment was part of the annual army and civil service reshuffle.

Gen. Prayuth is considered a hardliner within the military, and was the leading proponent of using force against the anti—government protestors who laid siege to parts of Bangkok in April and May.

Political analysts said Gen. Prayuth’s appointment might reduce the likelihood of further street violence in the near future.

“With hardliners in the military, the establishment is strong now,” said Chaturon Chaisaeng, a veteran politician with close ties to the opposition. “In the very near future, I don’t see much likelihood of violence.” General Anupong put Gen. Prayuth in charge of implementing the main offensives against the protest sites. Altogether 91 people died, including 11 soldiers and police, and more than 1,800 were injured in clashes and street battles during the demonstrations.

Gen. Prayuth is seen as a staunch royalist and opponent of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon—turned—politician who was the main financier of the protest movement. Mr. Thaksin has been a fugitive since 2008 to avoid a two—year prison sentence for abuse of power. He was prime minister for two terms between 2001 and September 2006, when he was ousted in a coup. Thailand has had 18 coups since 1932, when a group of Thai officers overthrew the absolute monarchy and installed a democracy under a constitutional monarchy. Like Gen. Anupong, Gen. Prayuth is a protege of General Prem Tinsulanonda, a former Army chief, who was prime minister between 1980 and 1988 and now heads the king’s privy council.

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