Prawit Wongsuwan

 

Prawit Wongsuwan is the Minister of Defence of Thailand, serving since 31 August 2014, and the deputy chairman of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). He also holds the post of deputy prime minister. From 2004 to 2005 he was the commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army (RTA). From 2008 to 2011 he was Thailand's defence minister.
Prawit's father was Major General Prasert Wongsuwan. He has four younger brothers: the Senator Admiral Sithawat Wongsuwan, Police General Patcharawat Wongsuwan (the former Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police), deceased football manager Pongphan Wongsuwan, and Phanpong Wongsuwan.
Prawit attended Saint Gabriel's College and Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School (class 6, graduated 1965). After graduating from Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy (class 17) in 1969, he became an officer in the 21st Infantry Regiment (Queen's Guard), 2nd Infantry Division. In 1978, he completed the Thai Command and General Staff course. After a failed coup in April 1981, he led in turn both the 2nd and 12th regiments of the 2nd Inf Div. In 1992, he was appointed royal aide-de-camp. In 1996 he was promoted to commander of the 2nd Infantry Division. After graduating from the National Defence College of Thailand in 1997, he became deputy commander, and in 1998 commander of the 1st Army Region (responsible for Bangkok and central Thailand). In 2001, he was appointed assistant chief-of-staff responsible for the army's operative branch. He returned to command the 1st Army Region, before being promoted to deputy commander-in-chief of the army in 2003 and commander-in-chief in 2004. After retiring from active military service, he became a judge at the supreme courts-martial. After the 2006 coup d'état, he was appointed a member of the National Legislative Assembly.
In December 2008 Prawit was appointed minister of defence in Abhisit Vejjajiva's cabinet, serving until August 2011. During the 2010 Thai political protests to which the government reacted with declaring a state of emergency and finally a military crackdown, Prawit was the deputy director, after 5 October 2010 director of the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation.
Prawit is known as the mentor (or "big brother") of a military clique called the "Burapha Payak (tigers of the east)", who typically start their careers in the 21st Infantry Regiment (nicknamed the "Queen's Tigers") based in Prachinburi in eastern Thailand. This group includes former Commander-in-Chief Anupong Paochinda, and his successor Prayut Chan-o-cha. Kasit Piromya, a former Democrat Party MP who served as foreign minister from 2008 to 2011, said that throughout his career, Prawit has mentored Prayut, helping him climb up the ranks. "Prawit was like a big brother," Kasit said. Prawit is often considered a backer of the anti-government protests during the 2013–14 Thai political crisis, cited as a potential leader in coup rumors (which he denied), or as a possible candidate for prime minister in the event that the anti-government movement should succeed.