Prayuth at a crossroads as retirement nears

A Defence Ministry order has been issued, listing the names of retiring officers including junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha and his deputies.

While this is routine paperwork, it remains to be seen whether another order will be issued before Sept 30, the end of fiscal 2014, to extend the service of the key members of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) .

Of about 400 names in the order, 117 are in the army.

In addition to Gen Prayuth, other key NCPO members due to retire on Sept 30 are NCPO deputies Gen Thanasak Patimapakorn, Adm Narong Pipattanasai and ACM Prajin Juntong, who are also the heads of the Supreme Command, the Royal Thai Navy and the Royal Thai Air Force respectively.

Three scenarios are possible, according to political observers.

In two of them, Gen Prayuth could remain as NCPO chief so he could continue to supervise the new government to be set up in early September.

The difference is whether he would retire as army chief or extend his term while serving as NCPO chief.

The other scenario is that Gen Prayuth could become prime minister himself in line with the NCPO's increasing popularity. He could then appoint new heads of the armed forces so the rank and file could be promoted.

Earlier, ACM Prajin, his close friend, said 90% of the people were satisfied with the NCPO's performance.

An army source said while Gen Prayuth was happy with the vote of confidence, he was not so sure about the long term after the "honeymoon period" ends.

"We have to work hard to show the people we did not come because we want power but because we really want to solve the country's problems. How do we do this transparently and without conflicts of interests?" the source quoted Gen Prayuth as saying.

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