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New Thai army chief pledges defence of monarchy - Metro US

New Thai army chief pledges defence of monarchy

Thailand's Royal Army Chief General Narongpan Jitkaewthae participates in the handover ceremony for the new Royal Thai Army Chief at the Thai Army headquarters in Bangkok

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s new army chief pledged on Tuesday to follow his predecessor, who has taken a hard line against anti-government groups and he emphasised the importance of protecting the monarchy.

The appointment of General Narongpan Jittkaewtae, in an annual military reshuffle, comes as Thailand’s army and palace dominated establishment faces the challenge of more than two months of anti-government protests.

Narongpan made no specific mention of the protesters, some of whom have called for reforms to curb the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy.

“I pledge to all of you that I will continue the obligations, responsibility, policies and ideology of the army chief, General Apirat Kongsompong, to the fullest of my ability,” Narongpan told a military ceremony.

Apirat, moving to a senior position in the royal household, was outspoken in criticising opposition figures, academics and politicians as potential threats to national security.

“I will protect and develop the army so it stands as a key institution of security that sustains the nation and throne,” said Narongpan, who will formally take up the new post on Oct. 1. He did not take questions from media.

Army appointments are closely scrutinised in Thailand, where soldiers have taken power 13 times since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha first seized power in a 2014 coup.

Narongpan, 57, belongs to Vajiralongkorn’s own King’s Guard faction of the army.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

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