The conflict at the Defence Ministry between Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwannatat and outgoing permanent secretary Gen Sathian Phoemthongin over who should succeed him seems to be over for the time being, with Gen Sathian being abruptly shunted to an inactive position.
On Aug 27, ACM Sukumpol issued an order transferring Gen Sathian to "assist" at the defence minister's office. Also removed by the same order were Gen Chatri Thatti, a deputy defence permanent secretary, and Gen Pinpas Sariwat, director-general of the Department of the Secretariat.
ACM Sukumpol later explained that the three generals were transferred because they acted improperly in disclosing confidential information to outsiders about the annual military reshuffle now being finalised.
On Aug 24, Gen Sathian, who is to retire on Sept 30, lodged a petition with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra accusing the defence minister of interference in the appointment of the new defence permanent secretary. Gen Sathian backed his deputy, Gen Chatri, to succeed him, but ACM Sukumpol reportedly favours Gen Thanongsak Apkrayothin, an assistant army commander-in-chief.
It was also reported that Gen Sathian met with Gen Surayud Chulanont, a privy councillor, and gave him a copy of the military reshuffle list so he could pass it on to Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, the president of the Privy Council.
Gen Sathian opposed Gen Thanongsak’s nomination, saying he was not qualified because his rank is not equivalent to a field marshal, a prerequisite for an officer to become the defence permanent secretary.
Opponents of Gen Sathian, however, contended that Gen Thanongsak is more senior than Gen Chatri and is due to retire next year and, thus, more suitable for the permanent secretary’s post than Gen Chatri, who still has three more years in the service.
There is also a political connection in Gen Sathian’s earlier promotion to defence permanent secretary. His wife Natnicha is mayor of Warin Chamrab district of Ubon Ratchathani, which is regarded as a political base of the Pheu Thai Party. He is said to be close to the prime minister and her brother former prime minister Thaksin.
Gen Sathian’s protégé Gen Chatri used to be a close aide to Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, former advisory chairman of the Pheu Thai Party and said to be close to the former’s wife.
Meanwhile, a new conflict has erupted between the Democrat-controlled Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and Science and Technology Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi over the testing of the effectiveness of the canal drainage system scheduled for Sept 5-7.
Minister Plodprasop also engaged in a renewed war of words with a group of water management experts, among them Pramote Maiklad and Smith Dhamasaroja who doubted the minister’s suitability to head the government’s flood prevention megaproject as chair of the Water and Flood Resources Management Committee.
City Hall has voiced serious concern that the WFRMC’s decision to test the readiness of the drainage system in Bangkok by releasing an unusually large amount of water from Chainat dam into the Chao Phraya river - water which will eventually flow into the klongs on the eastern and western sides of Bangkok - may cause flooding in high-risk areas such as Lat Phrao, Bang Khen, Sai Mai, Chatuchak, Huang Khwang, Bang Plad, Bangkok Yai, Thawee Wattana and Bang Khae.
Mr Plodprasop said the exercise was intended to test the effectiveness of the entire drainage system which includes the water pumping system, water gates and klong dredging operations.
But why now? Mr Plodprasop explained that all the flood prevention projects were due to be completed this month and, therefore, September was chosen for their testing. He insisted the proper agencies, including BMA, the Irrigation Department and Meteorological Department, had been consulted in advance about the test.
Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Parabatra said City Hall was concerned because the scheduled dates for the testing, Sept 5-7, was a time when Bangkok can expect to be struck by heavy rains. A storm is anticipated during this period.
The governor said he would personally order a halt to the test if it causes flooding in the city.
In the restive deep South, a string of bombings and arson on Friday marked the anniversary of the founding of Bersatu, an umbrella organisation that is involved in the separatist movement in South, and Malaysia's national Day.
Suspicious objects believed to be bombs, were placed at about 10 spots in Muang, Yaha and Banang Sata districts of Yala this morning, according to Col Pramote Prom-in, deputy spokesman of the forward command of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc).
Suspicious objects thought to be bombs were also found at several places in Yarang and Muang districts of Pattani. A Thai national flag was also burned and a Malaysian national flag raised instead, it was reported.
Similar incidents were also reported in eight districts of Narathiwat, and one paramilitary ranger was injured in a bomb blast. Several other bombs have been defused.
On Thursday, a trader was killed, beheaded and incinerated in Bannang Sata district of Yala.
The victim, 58-year old Tuanda-o Tuansulong, owner of a grocery shop in Bannang Sata, was driving his pick-up truck to the district hospital when he was stopped by a reported four militants.
They shot him dead and cut off his head before setting fire to the truck with the body still inside it. His head was left on the roadside. The motive for the grisly murder was still under investigation.
The high-profile killing of the son of Uthai Thani MP Chada Thaised took a big step forward when police announced that they had arrested a suspect.
The man, whose name was withheld, is an engineer working for a construction firm in Nakhon Ratchasima. Mr Chada’s son, Farut, was shot dead in his car on a road in tambon Moosi, Pak Chong district of Nakhon Ratchasima, on the night of Aug 20.
The suspect claimed that Farut’s car flashed high-beam lights at him and that he was shot at first, and had to fire back in self-defence, police said.