BANGKOK -- When diplomats in Bangkok meet Thailand's military top brass, they look for clues on where officers stand in the context of royal protocol. One sign is easy to spot: the image of Prince Dipangkorn, the king's 14-year-old son. It is pinned on the left breasts of a select few military leaders' deep-green uniforms, alongside their service ribbons.
Among those who currently sport the pin is the hawkish army commander in chief, Gen. Apirat Kongsompong. "Only a small network of people is allowed to wear it," said one Western diplomat after a meeting with Apirat, who is described by many foreign envoys as "fiercely loyal to the king."