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Srettha plays down talk of reform as Sutin emerges as defence minister

Written by World Events

As Pheu Thai Party decides to nominate one of its deputy leaders, Sutin Klungsang, as defence minister, Prime Minister-elect Srettha Thavisin is playing down expectations that there will be any radical reform of the military under his new administration.

“As I have been saying all along, I don’t like the word “reform”. My preference is for us to develop (the military) together,” Srettha said, when questioned by reporters on his government’s plans to reform the armed forces.

Pheu Thai was one of the political parties that made reforming the military a platform policy during the recent general election. It proposed downsizing the armed forces and imposing tighter controls on arms acquisitions.

Srettha also declined to confirm that there was a last-minute change in his party’s Cabinet line-up, which saw a former army general sidelined as defence minister and replaced by Sutin.

Sources in Pheu Thai said, however, that Srettha was under pressure, from members of the “red shirt” faction, to drop Gen Nattaphon Narkphanit, a former secretary general of the National Security Council, from the line-up. Nattaphon, who was strongly supported by outgoing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for the defence portfolio, was criticised for his alleged role in the bloody crackdown on the pro-Thaksin protesters in 2010, while he was serving in the army.

Sutin, a veteran politician and a party-list MP, had earlier been tipped as education minister. He was a teacher before entering politics.

Analysts tell Thai PBS that Sutin, an eloquent speaker in House debates, is seen as being politically moderate and should be acceptable to the military.

Sutin is not the first civilian to assume the defence portfolio. Most recently, former prime ministers Yingluck Shinawatra, Samak Sundaravej and Chuan Leekpai also doubled as defence ministers.


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