TST pledge to reform military, abolish conscription, a voter winner with Thailand’s youth
The Thai Sang Thai Party (TST) pledges to reform Thailand‘s military and abolish conscription if they are elected in the upcoming General Election on May 14. This move appears to be aimed at attracting young voters who are often reluctant to undergo military service due to the fear of losing productive years, harsh training, poor welfare, and hazing.
Under the Kingdom of Thailand Constitution, serving in the armed forces is considered a national duty for all Thai citizens. Men aged 20 must undergo up to two years of military service. However, this requirement is often viewed negatively by young men in Thailand.
Sita Divari, the TST party secretary-general, stated that if the party is elected, they will abolish conscription in favour of a voluntary enlistment program and improve military welfare. This move is likely to be a popular vote winner and could lead to significant changes in Thailand’s military and social policies.
“Modern armed forces must work to lift the quality of life of their personnel, particularly the rank and file so that they can serve the country to their full ability and with pride.”
TST party leader Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan supports the abolition of compulsory enlistment via the lot-drawing method, reported Bangkok Post.
The 58 year old Sita, who is a former air force fighter jet pilot, suggested that voluntary enlistment should be expanded as much as possible. He reckons the cost of running the conscription program and providing for conscripts is about 16 billion baht per year, which amounts to an average of 12,000 baht per conscript per month.
Although conscripts are necessary for the military’s operations, Sita believes that there are too many of them. Each year, around 50,000 individuals are recruited through compulsory enlistment, while a similar number join voluntarily. By abolishing conscription and relying solely on voluntary recruitment, the military could potentially become more efficient and cost-effective.
“Because of the excessive number of recruits, we have witnessed abuses of the system whereby some conscripts are sent to work as domestic helpers at senior officers’ homes, for example.
“Compulsory enlistment deprives people of their freedom for two years as well as the opportunity to earn an income, which in many cases is vital for sustaining a family.
“The military should downsize the number of conscripts, which would also ease pressure on its budget, he said. Those savings could then be used to improve the welfare offered to voluntary recruits, which would make enlistment more appealing.”
The Thai armed forces currently consist of about 360,000 personnel, 245,000 of whom are in the army.
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