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Army changes plans to transfer troops to South

By Wassana Nanuam

Army chief and coup leader Sonthi Boonyaratkalin has put the brakes on deploying troops based in Bangkok to operations in the deep South, in a decision reflecting his fears about problems in the capital.

An army source said on Thursday that Gen Sonthi decided to order troops from the Lop Buri-based 31st Infantry Regiment, instead of those from the 1st Infantry and 11th Infantry regiments in Bangkok, to the restive southernmost provinces in a rotation of forces to begin in October.

His worries about the situation in Bangkok led to the change of the plan, said the source.

Assistant army chief Saprang Kalayanamitr yesterday called on senior officers to concentrate their efforts on stabilising national security in the face of new threats.

Speaking to about 400 battalion commanders taking part in a workshop in Pathum Thani, he said the task of keeping peace and order had become demanding because threats came in various forms.

He said the military would have to work harder to achieve what it had set out to do when it staged the coup.

"We must be more patient and make more sacrifices. Now that we have seized power, we have to carry on and ensure peace and order," he said.

Gen Saprang also warned about widespread rumours, especially of a second coup, and urged the officers to stay put and trust each other.

"I myself have come under heavy criticism. But I am determined to work for the country and I will not waver from my course of action," he said.

First Army Region commander Prayut Chan-ocha said yesterday about 50,000 people were expected to rally to promote moral integrity at the Royal Plaza today.

A similar campaign would be organised in every region across the country, he said.

Lt-Gen Prayut said troops from the First Army have been actively engaged in community relations work in about 1,800 communities in Bangkok.

They were acting as coordinators and working closely with police and city officials.

Community relations is part of the army's plan to rally public support for the military and the government. It hopes it will help detect and stem any political undercurrent.

In Phrae, Third Army Region commander Lt-Gen Jiradej Kotcharat told a seminar of state officials and local politicians that they were key players in educating the public about democracy.

An educated public would not allow corruption and abuse of power and a coup would be averted, he said.

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