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The Royal Thai Army is responsible for protecting the kingdom's sovereignty. The army was formed in 1874, partly as a response to new security threats following the 1855 Bowring Treaty with Britain, which opened the country for international trade.
On 22 May 2014 the army deposed the government, appointed military officers to the national assembly, and on 21 August 2014 they elected the army's Commander in Chief, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, as prime minister. The general retired October 2014 to concentrate on political reform which he said would take at least a year, following which he promised national elections would be held.
The existence of an information warfare unit participating in a cyber campaign against government critics was leaked to the public in late February 2020.
In 2020 Twitter shut down a network of accounts which were engaged in information warfare. According to Twitter "Our investigation uncovered a network of accounts partaking in information operations that we can reliably link to the Royal Thai Army (RTA)." The operation had targeted the political opposition within Thailand. The Thai Army denied that they had been involved in the disinformation operation.
Army components and control
The Ministry of Defence, Bangkok
The number of army generals is unclear. One point of comparison: as of 1 November 2019, the US Army had 322 general officers:2 for a force of 471,990 troops. Saiyud Kerdphol is Thailand's oldest general, a veteran of World War II and Korea who retired in 1983 as supreme commander. During his tenure, general officer numbers were based on the number of troops under their command. As of 2019[update], only 150-200 four-star generals occupy command positions. Speaking on the topic of army manpower, Saiyud declared that, "Everybody being a general is unbelievable. Full generals don't have a seat to sit in or a job to do."
The Royal Thai Army is commanded by the Commander of the Royal Thai Army (). This position is considered the most powerful position in the Thai Armed Forces. As of 1 October 2020, the commander is General Narongpan Jitkaewthae.
Commander-in-Chief: General Narongpan Jitkaewthae from 1 October 2020
Deputy Commander-in-Chief: General Teerawat Boonyawat from 1 October 2020.
Chairman of the Royal Thai Army Advisory Board: General Dhanes Galapruek from 1 October 2020
Assistant Commander-in-Chief: General Pornsak Poolsawat from 1 October 2020.
Assistant Commander-in-Chief: General Thammanoon Withee from 1 October 2020.
Chief of Staff of the Army: General Worakiat Ratananont from 1 October 2020.
Senior Army Advisor: General Tanya Kiatisarn from 1 October 2020
Senior Army Advisor: General Natthawut Chunhanan from 1 October 2020
Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief: General Punlop Fuangfoo from 1 October 2020
Deputy Chief of Staff: Lieutenant General Ayut Srivises from 1 October 2020
Deputy Chief of Staff: Lieutenant General Chanavut Budkinnaree from 1 October 2020
Deputy Chief of Staff: Lieutenant General Songwit Noonpakdee from 1 October 2020
Deputy Chief of Staff: Lieutenant General Chetta Trongdee from 1 October 2020
Deputy Chief of Staff: Lieutenant General Santipong Thampiya from 1 October 2020
Army Comptroller: Lieutenant General Noppadol Chandapradab from 1 October 2020
Commander of the 1st Army Area: Lieutenant General Jaroenchai Hintao from 1 October 2020
Commander of the 2nd Army Area: Lieutenant General Thanet Wongcha-um from 1 October 2020
Commander of the 3rd Army Area: Lieutenant General Apichet Suthana from 1 October 2020
Commander of the 4th Army Area: Lieutenant General Kriangkrai Srirak from 1 October 2020
Commander of the Royal Thai Army Special Warfare Command: Lieutenant General Phumipat Chansawang from 1 October 2020
Director, Directorate of Personnel, Royal Thai Army: Lieutenant General Manaschai Sripajan from 1 October 2020
Director, Directorate of Intelligence, Royal Thai Army: Lieutenant General Terdsak Dumkhum from 1 October 2020
Director, Directorate of Operations, Royal Thai Army: Lieutenant General Ukrit Boontanont from 1 October 2020
Director, Directorate of Logistics, Royal Thai Army: Lieutenant General Chaimontree Photong from 1 October 2020
Director, Directorate of Civil Affairs, Royal Thai Army: Lieutenant General Piset Sirigasem from 1 October 2020
The army is organized nationally into four army areas:
Fourth Army Area (Thai: 4) - headquartered in Nakhon Si Thammarat, responsible for southern Thailand, it is the area that serves as the frontine command for those engaged in South Thailand insurgency. US State Department cables leaked by WikiLeaks in 2006 said: "Military forces totaling approximately 35,000 troops fall under the command of the 4th Army....the 5th Inf Div and the 15th Development Division (three regiments) totaling approximately 20,000 troops are the main units of the 4th Army."
4th Development Division - (Thai: ? 4) - US State Department cables leaked by Wikileaks in 2006 said: "The Development Division is itself a traditionally 'static unit' that provides engineering, construction and other support to local communities in the South. It is not formally charged with security operations. Indeed, Development Division officers were very proud in stating that they have better relations with the locals than other security elements -- and have not been attacked while engaged in construction or relief efforts."
4th Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) - (Thai: ?4)
5th Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) - (Thai: ?5)
The creation of the 15th Infantry Division was announced in January 2005. Defence Minister, General Samphan Boonyanan, was quoted as saying that the new unit, dubbed the "Development Division", would not be a combat unit for fighting Islamic militants, but rather its main mission would be to assist local citizens and develop the region. The military will not ignore its general function of providing safety for the citizens of the region, he added. He said that troops for the new division would undergo training to give them a good understanding of local residents, the vast majority of whom are ethnic Malay Muslims. The division is in fact a transformation of the Pranburi-based 16th Infantry Division. It will now be headquartered at Fort Ingkhayutthaborihan in Pattani, complete with its battalions and companies of military police and communications and aviation personnel, he said. It will also have three separate infantry battalions, one each in Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat. Each battalion will include three companies of medical, engineering, and psychological warfare personnel, he said. The government will allocate a budget of more than 18 billion baht for the division over the next four years.
The 15th Infantry Division is being established as a permanent force to handle security problems in the Deep South. The division is based in Pattani and is expected to have a combined force of around 10,000. The establishment of this new division, approved by the government in 2005, has yet to be completed. As of this writing, some 7,000 troops deployed in the Deep South are affiliated to this division." In 2012, two new combat formations had been approved by the thai government. The new 7th Infantry Division is based at Mae Rim, near Chiang Mai, and the new 3rd Cavalry Division is based at Khon Kaen.
The army is organised into the following formations:
Nine infantry divisions (including 16 tank battalions)
One armoured division
Three cavalry divisions (light armoured divisions)
The Army Tactical Level Advanced Simulation (ATLAS) is an interactive, distributed, constructive simulation used to conduct military Command Post Exercises (CPX). ATLAS displays a continuous terrain model, incorporates HLA 1516, and displays 1:250,000 and 1:50,000 maps and satellite imagery. ATLAS was developed between 2002 and 2005 through co-operation with the Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC).
Army Medical Department (AMED) () belongs to the service segment of the Royal Thai Army. It is in charge of medical affairs, and providing medical care, both in the field and on base, training personnel in research and agriculture and supervising the other medical divisions within the Royal Thai Army.
Units include the VIP squadron, flying two Embraer ERJ-135LRs (serial number 1084/HS-AMP and serial number 1124), two Jetstream 41s (serial numbers 41060 and 41094), two Casa 212-300s (serial numbers 446 and 447), and two Beech 1900C-1s (serial numbers 0169 and 0170) and the 1st Infantry Battalion operating two Bell 206Bs (serial numbers 4422 and 4448), three Schweizer S-300Cs (serial numbers 1340, 1366 and 1367), and two Cessna U-17B FAC aircraft (serial numbers 1616 and 1617).
The "2nd Infantry Division, Queen Sirikit's Guard", was operating two Bell 206Bs (serial numbers 4446 and 4361), three Schweizer S-300Cs (serial numbers 1343, 1344, and 1345), and two Maule MX-7s (one serial number known is 099) in 2004, however it is likely the Maule MX-7s may now not be operated by this unit now. A detachment of this unit (with, in 1998, one Bell 206 and one Maule MX-7) was operating from Watthana Nakhon (VTBW) near the Cambodian border.
AH-1F Cobra attack helicopter during air show at Don Mueang Air Force Base
The main flying unit here is the 3rd Infantry Battalion flying two Bell 206Bs (serial numbers 4396 and 4447), two Schweizer S-300Cs (serial numbers 1337 and 1339), and two Cessna U-17Bs (serial numbers 1454 and 1618).
This field also hosts a detachment of up to three Bell 212 helicopters from one of the Air Mobility Companies.
Fort Princess Srinagarindra (Lopburi), the main base complex of Royal Thai Army Aviation, including training, technical school, aircraft maintenance, and aircraft storage. The main airfield here is called Sa Pran Nak (VTBH).
Runways 01/19 3,300 x 98 feet (1,006 x 30 metres) and 06/24 3,890 x 98 feet (1,186 x 30 metres)
Operating units here include:
Gong Bin Bau ( Light Aviation Company ) - operating Cessna U-17Bs, Cessna T-41s, and Searcher MKIIs
Gong Bin Pee-ak Moon Tee Nung ( 1st Air Mobility Company ) - operating Bell UH-1Hs and Bell 212s
Gong Bin Pee-ak Moon Tee Song ( 2nd Air Mobility Company ) - operating Bell UH-1Hs (US Excess Defense Articles Program) and Bell 212s
Gong Bin Pee-ak Moon Tee Sam ( 3rd Air mobility Company ) - operating Bell UH-1Hs, Bell 206Bs, Bell AH-1F Huey Cobras (eight) and Bell 212s
Gong Bin Pee-ak Moon Tee Gou (pasom) ( 9th Air Mobility Company ) [Mixed]) - operating Bell UH-1Hs (US Excess Defense Articles Program) and Sikorsky S-70-43 Black Hawks (six) with six more on order.
Gong Bin Sanub-sanoon Tua Pai (General Support Aviation Battalion) - operating Boeing CH-47D Chinooks, Bell UH-1Hs, and Mil Mi-17V5s
The army aviation centre is based here, which conducts conversion training for the army. Types operated are Cessna T-41Bs (ex-US army surplus), Maule MX-7s, and Schweizer S-300C piston trainer helicopters.
The two former VIP Beechcraft 200 King Air aeroplanes (serial numbers 0342 and 1165), are also based here. Their present role is unknown. These aeroplanes were modified in the US in the late 1990s.
A separate airfield within the Lopburi complex (around 3 km south of Sa Pran Nak) houses the 5th Aircraft Maintenance Company. This unit is responsible for maintenance and storage of army aircraft and helicopters.
The 5th Infantry Division operates the following aviation assets from a small airfield within the army reserve at Nakhon Si Thammarat (not at the airport): two Bell 206B-3s (serial numbers 4382 and 4427), three Schweizer TH-300Cs (serial numbers 1371, 1372, and 1373) and two Maule MX-7s (serial numbers 114 and 115). A detachment of helicopters can be found here from the Air Mobility Companies based at Lopburi.
The army is divided into districts, whereby the first digit of the district indicates the army (first, second, third or fourth) responsible for its supervision. The names of forts are from locations or influential figures in Thailand's history. These are as follows:
The army owns more than 30 golf courses nationwide. The army also owns boxing stadium, 100 petrol stations, racecourses, hotels, retail and coffee shops, and radio and television airwaves (by one count, the armed forces have ownership in 537 radio and TV stations). In early 2020, the army entered an agreement with the Finance Ministry to turn over to the ministry the management of businesses unrelated to the army's mission. In a related move, army commander General Apirat Kongsompong decreed that retired generals must move out of army-owned housing to free space for serving officers. As of 2020[update], about 100 retired generals and colonels inhabit army accommodations. Some ex-generals, like PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan were exempted immediately from eviction because of their "contribution to society". The Thai Defence Ministry position is that there is no law prohibiting retired officers from occupying military housing.
In January 2021, the RTA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) to study the feasibility of constructing solar farms on 4.5 million rai of army land to generate 30,000 megawatts of electricity. Following up, on 22 February 2021 a meeting was called by the President of Royal Thai Army Radio and Television Channel 5 with energy firms interested in winning a piece of what is projected to be a 600 billion baht project. The Energy Ministry was not represented at the meeting. Critics have questioned why the army is involved in energy procurement, in contravention of existing regulations, and why Thailand needs more electricity when it already has 59% reserve capacity and more capacity under construction.