Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 60,856,000
    – under-18s: 19,039,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 301,000
    – reserves: 200,000
    – paramilitary (active): 115,600
  • Compulsory recruitment age: register at 18; enlist at 21
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 18
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • Child soldiers: none indicated in government armed forces; indicated in armed opposition groups
  • CRC-OP-CAC: not signed
  • Other treaties ratified: GC; CRC
  • Opposition armed groups in the country are reported to recruit teenagers. There are no indications of under-18s in government armed forces


Malay Muslim separatist armed groups have been active in Pattani province in the south of Thailand since the 1940s but since 1994 the conflict has been low level. Thailand also faces security problems arising from conflict and displacement in neighbouring states, especially Myanmar and Cambodia. (See relevant country entries for more information). More than 1,500 Thai soldiers were deployed with peacekeeping forces in East Timor from October 1999.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Conscription is enshrined in Section 69 of the new 1997 Constitution, according to which: "Every person shall have a duty to defend the country, serve in Armed Forces ..."1902 The 1954 Military Service Act article 16 states that Thai male citizens who have reached the age of 18 years are required to register their names for the purpose of enlistment. Under Article 25 of the 1954 Military Service Act,1903 the actual recruitment into the armed forces of those enlisted takes place only when they are 21 years of age.1904 The length of military service is two years.1905 After completing their service, they are enrolled into the reserve forces.1906 The Military Service Act does not provide for young women to be conscripted but they may enter the armed forces voluntarily.1907

Voluntary recruitment of Thai males is set at 18 by the 1954 Military Service Act. Volunteer soldiers serve a shorter period in the military than those who are conscripted. Volunteer soldiers with a bachelor's degree are in service for only six months and those who have diplomas or have completed the second year of the army's territorial defence training serve only one year, while conscripts have to serve two years.1908

There are also a number of paramilitary forces in Thailand, which make up part of the defence forces and may be considered as reserve forces. The minimum age for enlistment into the paramilitary forces is also 18. According to Thai officials, the actual recruitment procedure takes place only when those registered or enlisted are 21 years of age.1909

Draft evasion is reported to be widespread, mostly among rich and influential families. There is some possibility of alternative service by opting for a three-year territorial defence programme, which is "normally extended to upper high school students". The Defence Ministry reportedly intends to reduce all the armed forces by 72,000 personnel, about 17 per cent of the current 423,000 in uniform by 2007.1910 Conscription is planned to be phased out and to be replaced by volunteer forces.

Military Training and Military Schools

According to information provided by the government, it is possible for male cadets to enter military academies from the age of 17.1911 Youths can also attend the armed forces' pre-cadet school, which provides them with free education as well as a monthly salary and subsistence allowance. Students of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School, the army's Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy are considered members of the military service.1912 According to article 10 of the 1954 Military Service Act, students of the cadet school are registered into the armed forces only when they are 18 years old.1913 As part of its plan to attract volunteers and reduce conscription, a quota of admissions to the training school for non-commissioned officers are to be allocated to twelfth grade high school graduates.


The following armed opposition groups have been active at various times but are now significantly diminished: the Barisan Nasional Pembebasan Pattani (BNPP) and its armed wing, the National Liberation Army of the Pattani People; the Barisan Bersatu Mujahideen Pattani (BBMP);1914 the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) (c.100 active fighters;)1915 the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (PULO)1916 and its armed wing is the Pattani United Liberation Army (c. 50 armed fighters); and finally the New PULO, which is regarded by the army as currently the strongest armed group. The existence of another 40 or so armed groups was reported in 1998.

According to officials in 1999, "the separatist movement in the South now has only 60 to 80 active members and the threat of insurgent violence has largely subsided." Allegedly, only two armed groups, the PULO and BRN, are still active.1917 Yet, in January 2000 it was reported that separatist movements have renewed their campaigns and that the PULO now maintains a web site which, according to Army sources, "advertises its activities and attempts to attract recruits."1918

Child Recruitment and Deployment

Little information is available about the recruitment practices of these groups but some are believed to attract teenagers. The Interior Minister reported to the Bangkok Post that as each group had no more than 100 armed guerrillas left, "they hired teenagers to stir up trouble at 5,000-10,000 Bhat a time. This made intelligence work more difficult since villagers tended to withhold information to protect their children."1919

There is widespread recruitment of children into ethnic insurgent groups on the Thailand/Myanmar border (see Myanmar country entry).


International Standards

During the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in November 1999, Thailand pledged "to prevent the recruitment of children below the age of 18 years into the situation of armed conflict" and supported the adoption of a strong CRC-OP-CAC. At the Winnipeg International Conference on War-affected Children in September 2000, the Thai government also undertook to accelerate the process of signing both the CRC-OP-CAC,1920 but it has not signed the CRC-OP-CAC to date.

1902 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, enacted on 11 October 2540 (1997).

1903 Military Service Act, B. E. 2497, 1954.

1904 Initial Report of Thailand submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/11/Add.13, 30/9/96, para. 107; see also "It's time to end military draft", Bangkok Post, 7/3/99. Information also provided by Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Asia-Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers, May 2000.

1905 "Army to expose 'dodgers'", The Nation, 20/6/98.

1906 "It's time to end military draft", op. cit.

1907 Report of Thailand to Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit., para. 120.

1908 "Army overwhelmed amid record surge in volunteers", Bangkok Post, 6/4/99.

1909 Horeman and Stolwijk. op. cit.

1910 "Thailand", Asia week, 16/9/99.

1911 Report of Thailand to Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit., para. 107., para. 120.

1912 "Pre-cadet students to get free study", Bangkok Post, 19/3/99.

1913 Statement at Asia-Pacific Conference op. cit.; information provided by Thai Ministry of Defence.

1914 Balencie and de La Grange op. cit. p. 865.

1915 Bonnthanom, S., Jinakul, S. and Charasdamrong, P., "Calm before the storm?", Bangkok Post, 1/2/98.


1917 Chetchotiros, N., "Breakaway movement wanes", Bangkok Post, 27/9/99.

1918 Nanuam, W., "Army wages internet war against PULO", Bangkok Post, 15/1/00.

1919 Hutasingh, O., "Separatist movement has few supporters", Bangkok Post, 19/1/99.

1920 Statement of Minister of Foreign Affairs at the International Conference on War-affected Children, 16/9/00.


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