Navy chief denies offer to head defense ministry

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Royal Thai Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm. Kamthon Pumhiran denied he is in the running to become defense minister in Thailand’s new Pheu Thai Party-led government.

In an interview in Sattahip July 12, the admiral said supposition he was asked to take a cabinet post was just a rumor and that he has never talked to anyone about the job.

Royal Thai Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm. Kamthon Pumhiran denies he is in the running to become defense minister. Royal Thai Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm. Kamthon Pumhiran denies he is in the running to become defense minister.

Kamthon’s name was thrown into the hat of possible Defense Ministry candidates after he visited Brunei July 5-7 to attend the 50th anniversary celebration for that country’s Navy.

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been rumored to be in Brunei. Kamthon said he was only in Brunei for the anniversary celebration and denied meeting Thaksin. The admiral, who has served in the military for 40 years, said he is looking forward only to retirement and spending more time with his family.

While he refused to say whether he would take the job if asked and did not offer any opinion on possible other defense minister candidates, Kamthon did say he believes whoever takes over the Defense Ministry should “have strategic knowledge about the nation and military and understand military development and have the trust of his subordinates.”

Those comments echo the July 16 remarks from Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha. The commander in chief of all Thai military forces, breaking a promise to not comment on the new government until the cabinet is formed, told reporters that while the search for a new defense minister “is not a topic for public discussion” he preferred a military officer, not civilian, have the post.

Prayuth said the new defense minister “should be known for high ethical standards and be held in high esteem by the armed forces” and should be in a position to bring about an “amicable atmosphere between the military and the government.”