Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tough on the field, unyeilding at the table

  • Bangkok Post
  • Published: 3/01/2012 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: News
Thanasak Patimaprakorn's past record and accomplishments are proof that he's a soldier worthy of working of his rank as supreme commander.
Thanasak: Expert on the border
Atlhough by virtue of his position, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has often overshadowed him, Gen Thanasak's career accomplishments are second to none. Gen Thanasak is an outstanding royal guard for Her Majesty. In fact, he started out serving as a close guard to the Queen in his early days in military uniform.
He has often been seen accompanying the Queen and extending an arm for her to lean on during her visits to villages.
Inside the armed forces, Gen Thanasak received the full backing of other top brass including Gen Prayuth and his predecessor, Songkitti Jaggabatara, during a search for a new supreme commander.
And nobody opposed the choice to make him supreme commander in the military reshuffle in October last year. He is due to retire in 2014.
Gen Songkitti, Gen Thanasak and Gen Prayuth are classmates from Class 12 of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.
Gen Thanasak is a man of few words and prefers to keep a low profile.
"I give an interview only every two months after chairing the bimonthly meeting of armed force leaders," he said. "I want to give them freedom to work without me saying they will have to do this or that."
His past posts include a stint in border protection affairs, including on the frontier between Thailand and Cambodia.
When he was a military chief of staff, Gen Thanasak drafted a defence scheme for the border and designed several plans for military drills.
After serving in the 9th Infantry Division in Kanchanaburi, Gen Thanasak moved on to the Long Range Patrol Company of the 1st Division, the King's Guard. After that he received a promotion to become commander of an attack battalion of the army's special warfare unit. That was when he earned a reputation as an aggressive and efficient fighter.
He also founded the armed forces' anti-international terrorism centre, which works with the United States and other key allies on intelligence and training the military in anti-terrorism operations.
His latest challenge was the Thai-Cambodian border clashes that erupted over a dispute about the 4.6 square kilometres of land surrounding Preah Vihear temple as both sides awaited a hearing before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The ICJ ordered both Thai and Cambodian troops to pull out of a provisional demilitarised zone and that Indonesian observers be allowed in the area.
Gen Thanasak has worked closely with the secretary-general of the General Border Committee to ensure Thailand is not at a disadvantage in negotiations with Cambodia.
"We will lose territory if Thai soldiers are not allowed to enter an area belonging to Thailand," he said, referring to the possible consequences of the ICJ's ruling.
A key man at the latest GBC meeting in Phnom Penh on Dec 21 was Gen Thanasak, who joined Defence Minister Gen Yutthasak Sasiprapa during negotiations with his Cambodian counterpart, Gen Tea Banh. He fed information to the negotiating team and made sure it did not agree to points it should not.
Gen Thanasak helped the Thai team win concessions from Cambodia, which had originally wanted to allow only Indonesian observers on the disputed land. In the end, Cambodia agreed to support a joint observation team comprised of Thai, Cambodian and Indonesians, instead.

About the author

Writer: Wassana Nanuam
Position: Reporter

No comments: