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Mid-year reshuffle completes the Thaksin purge

By Veera Prateepchaikul for

Deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's former classmates at Class 10 of the Royal Chulachomklao Military Academy who escaped the first wave of reshuffle after the Sept 19 coup have now all been removed from key military positions.

The mid-year reshuffle in the three armed forces announced on Wednesday was endorsed by His Majesty the King, and will take effect as of April 1.

An informed source noted that the reshuffle completed the CNS consolidation of controlling power of key military positions in the three armed forces. Even some senior officers deemed loyal to Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont have been sidelined, the source added.

Informed military observers said the mid-year reshuffle saw the complete purge of Thaksin's military classmates from the important military positions in all three armed forces.

Among the most prominent officers sent out was Gen Pornchai Kranlert, deputy chief-of-staff of the three armed forces, who would assume the new post as an adviser attached to the Office of the Defence Permanent Secretary.

Lt-Gen Sujate Wattanasook, commander of the Second Army Region and said to be close to former defence minister and Thai Rak Thai party heavyweight Thammarak Issarangkoon na Ayudhya, is to become a special adviser attached to the Office of the Permanent Secretary.

His transfer reportedly stemmed from his failure to curb the ''undercurrent'' problem in the Northeast which is under the jurisdiction of the Second Army Region.

Lt-Gen Chatchai Thavornbutr, deputy chief-of-staff of the army, a former close aide of Thaksin, would move to the Office of the Defence Permanent Secretary as an adviser.

Informed military sources said that several members of Class 9 who were believed close to former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh were also moved out of key positions, because of suspicions they could pose a threat to the Council for National Security.

Apart from Lt-Gen Sujate, commander of the Second Army, the reshuffle also saw a purge of many key army positions in the second army - officially for failure to curb the problem of ''undercurrents'' in the region. Many new faces were picked to fill the vacancies in the second army.

The new second army commander is Lt-Gen Suchit Sitthiprapa, promoted from deputy chief staff officer of the army commander.

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