A military trainer who sacrificed his life to save a cadet during a grenade-throwing class conducted at the Infantry Centre in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Pran Buri district on Tuesday morning is being lauded as a hero.

Sergeant Major First Class Somchai Thanabat, the 32-year-old trainer who was attached to the Infantry Education Division (IED), reportedly snatched an unpinned grenade from the cadet who appeared startled and refused to throw it away.

The cadet, Kanokphon Pho-im, lost his right forearm while Sgt Maj Somchai died instantly, according to a source. Cadet Kanokphon is a student at the Army Non Commissioned Officer School who had chosen to undergo training at the IED. He is being treated at the Thanarat Military Camp’s hospital in Prachuap Khiri Khan.

The army extended its condolences to Sgt Maj Somchai’s family, saying he performed his duty to the last and opted to save the cadet’s life over his own, said Col Sirichan Ngathong, a deputy spokesman for the Royal Thai Army, yesterday.

In return for Sgt Maj sacrifice, the army has resolved to grant him a seven-fold promotion to lieutenant colonel, Col Sirichan said.

The funeral rites began yesterday and will last until June 12.  The cremation is due to take on June 13 at Wat Thung Chang Phuek temple in his hometown, tambon Salui in Chumphon’s Tha Sae district.

Friends of Sgt Maj Somchai described him as a well-respected person in the town who liked to help whenever he could. He was an orphan and before his death he lived with his 78-year-old adoptive mother, his wife and his daughter.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon offered condolences to the family and sympathy for Cadet Kanokphon and his family, said Defence Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich. Gen Prawit said the army would make sure both families are taken care of and to carry out an investigation, Lt Gen Kongcheep said.