By THE NATION
The announcement also named 10 other officials who were being transferred.
Narongsak’s transfer had been in the pipeline since April as a routine reshuffle within the Interior Ministry.
The ministry, however, is looking to issue another order to delay Narongsak’s departure until the rescue mission is completed. Although the missing footballers have been found and given initial assistance, the operation to evacuate them from the cave is not considered feasible until their health improves.
After days of hard work to rescue the boys trapped in the flooded cave, the Chiang Rai governor has gained massive popularity around the country.
Members of the public have lauded Narongsak for his dedication, especially after a video clip went viral on the Internet showing him telling officials to consider the missing boys as their own children and to work hard to try to find them.
Netizens expressed disappointment at the transfer announcement partly because his transfer to a smaller province like Phayao is viewed as a demotion.
News also circulated that Narongsak was being transferred for declining to approve several projects involving irregularities in the use of the state funds.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday reiterated that the transfer had been approved in April as a routine reshuffle within the Interior Ministry and was not a reflection on his performance.
Prayut also said Narongsak was a good man and would do a good job wherever he went.
“We want capable people to work in underdeveloped areas. So, we need him. And I have already wished him luck,” Prayut said. “This (the transfer) has already got the Royal endorsement after being presented two to three months ago, so we have to go ahead with it.”
In another development, social activist Srisuwan Janya is currently campaigning against the transfer, gathering signatures to petition for Narongsak to stay on as Chiang Rai Governor.
The campaign was launched online via the website Change.org. Srisuwan said after gaining sufficient signatures, he would submit the documents to the concerned agencies.