BANGKOK — Staff attached to Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan were seen packing his belongings at the Defense Ministry on Tuesday, in a sign that the junta second-in-command may not return to the post in the next cabinet.
Gen. Prawit, whose leadership on military and national security often propels him to national news, has been reticent about his career future in recent weeks. He likewise declined to answer reporters’ questions when he arrived at the ministry today.
“See you in the next government?” one reporter called out to him, to which Prawit wordlessly gave a nod. His aides were seen carrying his belongings from his office earlier today.
The general is due to attend the ASEAN defense ministers’ summit on Thursday.
Media reports quoting government sources have said the 73-year-old was reluctant to take up the influential post of Defense Minister again in the new cabinet, which junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha has said will come into power “by the end of July.”
Some reports also claim Prawit will retain a seat as a deputy prime minister in the new administration. Prawit has repeatedly refused to discuss the matter with reporters.
If the speculation proves to be true, it would mark the end of Prawit’s controversial tenure as head of the Thai armed forces, which was riddled with alleged corruption scandals, political feuds, and a gaffe that might have single-handedly cost Thailand millions in lost revenues from Chinese tourists.
But an observer of military affairs has named Prawit the real “Big Brother” in the junta who has played an invaluable role in ending bitter rivalries among army factions.