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Thailand unlikely to abolish the draft

Jack Burton



Thai Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon says military conscription won’t be scrapped any time soon, as there aren’t enough volunteers signing up for service. Prawit told reporters conscription is meant to avoid manpower shortfalls, but admitted that conscripts represent a small percentage of all recruits, appearing to contradict himself.

“If conscription is abolished and something untoward happens to Thailand, there won’t be enough soldiers. Who would be responsible then?”

Even if the government ended conscription, lawmakers would have to amend a number of laws.

“Public opinion would also have to be factored in if conscription were abolished.”

“A new method of recruitment would have to be put in place, because the current system has been in place for decades.”

With a population of 67 million, Thailand has an Army of around 350,000. It has over 1700 generals and admirals, more than the total number of Thai warships, tanks, and aircraft, according to the Bangkok Post. More than 300 generals work in the capital, and senior officers have aides and military conscripts to act as their ‘slaves’ and do all the household work.

Not a single general or admiral has been involved in a conflict since the Thai-Laos border conflicts in 1988.

Compare that with the US, with a population of 360 million people and an active duty military force of 1,281,000, has about 900 generals and admirals combined.

There’s widespread feeling that the countless Thai generals and admirals have just three goals: to align with politicians of the right political party, to ensure they get the best postings, and to enrich themselves and share their spoils with their subordinates to ensure loyalty, according to an editorial in the Bangkok Post.

Other critics contend that Thai armed forces serve only two functions – to safeguard the ruling class from challenges by movements to expand democracy, and enrich themselves and their friends and supporters with preferred treatment in many aspect of Thai life.

The same critics suggest Thailand would be better defended by a well trained body of professional soldiers rather, than a “motley crew” of young, unwilling draftees, many of whom spend most of their time as household servants to the military elite.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | Chiang Rai Times

Thailand unlikely to abolish the draft | News by Thaiger

Thai PM General Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of the military coup and now Thailand’s prime minister – Reuters


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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