Last Updated: Friday, 28 August 2015, 08:25 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Thailand

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Thailand, 2004, available at: [accessed 28 August 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Kingdom of Thailand

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 62.2 million (19.3 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 314,200 (estimate)
Compulsory recruitment age: 20
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: not signed
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182

There were no reports of under-18s in the armed forces. Refugees from Myanmar continued to arrive in Thailand. They included former child soldiers recruited by the Myanmar armed forces and armed political groups in Myanmar. They lived in camps or as "illegal immigrants" along the border. The children were at risk of being returned to Myanmar.


In May 2002 Myanmar closed its border with Thailand after the Thai army fired shells across the border during fighting between the Myanmar armed forces and ethnic Shan rebels.1

In 2001 and 2002 there were several small-scale attacks that the authorities claimed were the work of separatist groups in the impoverished and predominantly Muslim provinces of southern Thailand.2 Reports in early 2004 indicated that the armed groups had several hundred supporters.3 In January 2004, after a wave of violence in southern Thailand in which an army camp and government schools were attacked, the government declared martial law in Pattani and the provinces of Yala and Narathiwat bordering Malaysia.4 A Muslim leader suspected of links with the attackers was subsequently captured and killed, possibly by the armed forces.


National recruitment legislation and practice

The 1997 constitution states that "Every person shall have a duty to defend the country, serve in armed forces ... as provided by law" (Section 69).5 Men who have reached the age of 20 are required to serve in the armed forces for two years. Up to 80,000 men were expected to have been drafted in 2003.6

The Labour Protection Act of 1998 prohibits the employment of children under the age of 15, and employers hiring under-18s are required to notify a labour inspector. The minimum age for employment in work involving explosives or inflammable material is 18 (Section 49), and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare prohibits a child under 18 from performing dangerous work (Ministerial Regulation No. 6).7

Military training and military schools

The Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School offers secondary education to students before they join the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy or the Police Cadet Academy. The school aims to enhance the knowledge and efficiency of pre-cadets before further military training. Pre-cadets are divided into four battalions directly controlled by platoon commanders, and their military education and training is provided by the Regiment of Cadets. Applicants to the school must be unmarried boys between 14 and 17 years of age, who have educational qualifications to the level of Grade Ten and meet the health and height qualifications required by the armed forces or police.8

Armed political groups

Little information was available on the recruitment practices of the armed groups operating in southern Thailand. After the January 2004 attacks, the government launched an investigation of ponohs (Islamic schools) in the region. According to the Education Ministry, there were more than 100 ponohs with 8,600 students in Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala. The army said that there were almost 500 in the same area and in Satun province. It said it had "blacklisted" 30 of them for alleged links with armed opposition groups. The evidence for the army's accusations was not made public.9

Other developments

Former child soldiers were among refugees from neighbouring Myanmar who continued to arrive in significant numbers during 2002 and 2003. They stayed in camps along the border, although the government refused to register them. In December 2002 the National Security Council Chief announced that Thailand would begin forcibly returning asylum seekers from neighbouring countries to their country of origin.10 The Thai government had not signed or ratified the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its Protocol.

1 BBC News, "Timeline: Thailand", 23 February 2004,

2 Chawadee Nualkhair, "Thaksin vows help for violence-hit south Thailand", Reuters, 10 January 2004.

3 Marwaan Macan-Markar, "Thailand: Violence mars ethnic harmony", IPS/The Manila Times, 14 January 2004,

4 Asian Centre for Human Rights, Education and conflicts in Southern Thailand, 21 January 2004, (Features).

5 Constitution, at International Constitutional Law,

6 Government and politics, Armed forces, at Sunsite Thailand

7 International Labour Organization (ILO), The effective abolition of child labour, from Review of annual reports under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work: Compilation of annual reports by the ILO, March 2003, (ILO Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work, Publications, Annual Review database).

8 Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School,; Armed Forces Academies,

9 Asian Centre for Human Rights, op. cit.

10 See Amnesty International Report 2003,; Human Rights Watch, "My gun was as tall as me": Child soldiers in Burma, October 2002,; Myanmar entry of this report.

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