ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
February 4, 2008
Thailand's incoming prime minister Samak Sundaravej on Sunday assured outgoing Defence Minister Gen. Boonrawd Somtas that he would not interfere in military affairs, including the annual reshuffle of senior military officers.
The two men sat next to each other during a wreath-laying ceremony at Bangkok's Victory Monument to observe War Veterans' Day. Several senior military officers and military attaches were also present at the annual event.
Mr. Samak, who will also hold the defence minister's portfolio in the new government expected to be announced within days, discussed a new law regarding the defence ministry with Gen. Boonrawd.
It was only coincidental, Gen. Boonrawd said, that the law which came into effect Saturday removes direct oversight from the defence ministry just at the time when Mr. Samak is becoming the defence minister.
Gen. Boonrawd said his ministry had followed required procedures and pushed for the law for a long time and that the law was ready only recently and took force.
Under the new law pertaining to the defence ministry, both the prime minister and the defence minister are barred from making unilateral decisions concerning the reassignment of generals in the three armed forces as before.
The annual reassignment of military officers holding the rank of general usually takes place on or after October 1, or the start of the government's fiscal year, is now subject to review by a seven-member committee consisting of five permanent government officials and two political appointees.
Mr. Samak responded to Gen. Boonrawd that he was determined to work as defence minister and that he would assign armed forces chiefs to handle the work. He said he would remain neutral in military affairs.
Meanwhile, outgoing Prime Minister Gen. Surayud Chulanont told journalists that he was confident that Mr. Samak could perform well as defence minister because the latter had been a politician for a long time.
Gen. Surayud emphasised that the new defence ministry law was initiated long ago and was only recently approved by the military-installed National Legislative Assembly in accordance with legal procedures.