Surayud's colourful life
The life of General Surayud Chulanont is filled with paradoxes, one of which is that he is poised to become the interim prime minister, relying on the military as his power base, after making it his mission in 1998 to put soldiers back in their barracks.
He managed to distinguish himself as a leader in combat, a government strategist overhauling the country's rice policy, a top military commander and a privy councillor after rising from humble beginnings as the son of a communist leader.
Surayud, 63, grew up in turbulent times when his father, Payom Chulanont, was forced to take refuge with the Communist Party of Thailand following a purge of the armed forces led by military strongman Field Marshal Prapas Charusathien.
Determined to salvage his family's name, Surayud opted for a military career and graduated from the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy's class 11 in 1965.
Class 11 officers entered military service at the height of the secret battle to gain dominance over Laos during the Vietnam War. Surayud served on the front line in Laos and later fought the communist insurgency in Thailand's Northeast. He was credited with prowess in battle as well as his strategy in pacifying the insurgents and their sympathisers.
While he was climbing the ladder through special warfare operations, Thailand was plunged into turmoil by uprisings in 1973 and 1976. To overcome the country's political problems, politicians and the ruling elite - notably MR Kukrit Pramoj - pushed for the installation of Army chief, General Prem Tinsulanonda, as prime minister, tasked with ending fractious politics and ushering in democratic rule.
Many saw Prem's rise to power in 1980 as half-baked democracy. For eight years, he steered the country through political turbulence and mobilised the armed forces to shore up his mandate.
Surayud, at the time a lieutenant colonel, was one of Prem's close aides. Impressed by Surayud's track record against insurgency, Prem handpicked him to work as a strategist to address political demands and rein in politicians.
Surayud worked mostly behind the scenes, but stepped into the spotlight briefly when he brokered a deal to revamp a scheme shoring up the price of paddy.
After Prem retired from politics to assume the position of Privy Council president, Surayud returned to military service in 1988, securing many key positions, such as commander of the Special Warfare Command and later of the Second Army Area.
Shifting political winds saw him briefly sidelined to an inactive post as Army chief adviser before he staged a comeback as the dark horse to win the coveted post of Army commander-in-chief in 1998.
Many billed him as a career soldier striving to promote professionalism and to modernise the military.
He initiated the downsizing of the armed forces, revamped arms procurement to root out corruption and stopped the dispensing of military positions in exchange for political favours.
After the election of the first Thaksin government he was promoted to Supreme Commander in 2003 before his retirement the following year.
Surayud and Thaksin clashed on many issues, most notably, meddling to sway the military for political gains. His final mission before retirement was organising rescue operations for Thais stranded in Phnom Penh following the burning there of the Thai Embassy.
After leaving military service, Surayud briefly ordained as a Buddhist monk at a monastery for meditation in Nong Khai. His Majesty the King later named him an adviser sitting on the Privy Council.
The 24th prime minister of Thailand
General Surayud Chulanont
Date of appointment: October 1, 2006
Date of birth: August 28, 1943
Royal Thai Military Academy (BS)
Infantry Centre School
Joint Staff College, Thailand
Joint Staff College, USA
Resource Management Programme, Ministry of Defence, USA
National Defence College (1993)
Marital Status: Married to Khunying Chitravadee Chulanont
Privy Councillor (from November 14, 2003)
Member of the Executive Committee of the Anandamahidol Foundation (2003)
Commander in Chief, Royal Thai Army
Commanding General, Second Army Area
Commanding General, Special Warfare Command.