6 June 2024

Sutin Klungsang, deputy leader of the Pheu Thai Party and tipped to be the new defence minister, said today that he believes that Thailand has long passed the days of military coups.

He expressed confidence that, with the help of advisors who are former military officers, he will be able to manage the affairs of one of country’s most important ministries effectively.

He stopped short, however, of confirming that he is slated for the job.  “Wait until there is a formal announcement,” he told reporters at Government House.

Sutin was, nonetheless, among nominees for a cabinet portfolio who submitted their resumes to the Cabinet Secretariat for formal verification.

When asked about Pheu Thai’s manifesto pledge to reform the military, Sutin said his party will try to implement every one of its election promises. “Every policy must be implemented, but how soon depends on the reality of the situation and various other factors,” he said.

Sutin, a former teacher and a veteran politician, was chosen by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin for the defence post after an earlier nomination, Gen Nattaphon Narkphanit, a former secretary general of the National Security Council, was rejected, following opposition from members of the “red shirt” faction. Nattaphon is alleged to have been involved in the bloody crack-down of pro-Thaksin protesters in 2010.

Asked to comment on the sour relationship between his political party and the military, Sutin said that bringing the country toward unity and solidarity should be everyone’s priority.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of the Pheu Thai Party was overthrown in a military coup in 2014, while her brother Thaksin faced the same fate when he was prime minister in 2006. The party campaigned on an anti-military platform in the recent May general election.

Sutin said that he believes that nobody in the military would want to see another military coup. “I believe that, from now on, there should not be any more military coups. We have long passed those days,” he said.

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