Prayuth to replace 4th Army chief

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, in his capacity as army chief, will replace Lt Gen Walit Rojanapakdi as commander of the 4th Army which is responsible for handling the southern insurgency, in the forthcoming annual military reshuffle, according to an informed military source.

The source said Lt Gen Walit would be promoted to the rank of general holding the post of deputy chief-of-staff of the Royal Thai Armed Forces Command. He will be replaced as 4th Army commander by Maj Gen Prakan Cholayuth, the 3rd Army deputy commander.

Maj Gen Prakan was once deputy commander of the 4th Army before being moved to the North.

The source said Lt Gen Walit, who had been 4th Army commander for only six months, was unable to keep the situation in the South under control despite the fact that as a member of the Tigers of the East, he had long served in the Prachin Buri-based 2nd Infantry Division operating along the Thai-Cambodian border. During his short stint as 4th Army chief, many major incidents, particularly involving car bombs, occurred in many areas.

Lt Gen Walit is known for his role in the crackdowns on the red shirts at the Din Daeng intersection in April 2009 and later at the Khok Wua intersection in April 2010 when he was seriously wounded.

Concerning the situation in the three southern border provinces, Prime Minister Prayuth said in his "Returning Happiness to the People of the Nation" television programme last Friday that the government and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) would make it a national agenda.

Gen Prayuth said the form of negotiations with insurgency groups would be changed. He said National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Thawil Pliensri and his staff would be in the troubled area very soon to prepare for the talks.

It was reported that Mr Thawil would travel to Malaysia for this purpose this week.

Gen Prayuth said the talks must involve all insurgent groups, not just a few, under a clear strategy and all involved must work as a whole systematically.

In a related development, it was reported that Gen Prayuth had signed the annual military reshuffle list, which was on Friday forwarded to His Majesty the King for endorsement.

It was reported that the commanders of all four army regions, including Lt Gen Walit of the 4th Army, would be replaced.

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