Thais demand an end to conscription with viral online hashtag

The hashtag #ยกเลิกการเกณฑ์ทหาร (end military conscription) trended online in Thailand on Tuesday after the alleged death of a conscript in a military camp.

The hashtag has received over 65k shares and has sparked conversation and comments from society leaders and parliamentarians over Thailand’s conscription process.

All Thai males over 18 years of age must enter the military draft unless they have completed a reserve officers training program. However, critics say that access to the ROTC program is limited to the middle and upper class meaning that the majority of Thais that go through the draft process overwhelmingly come from low-income families.

According to local media, one such candidate collapsed and died at a military this week prompting the viral hashtag.

Unfortunately, the death of soldier-cadets is not uncommon in the Thai military. Rights groups have released previous reports which detail abuse of cadets at the hands of the military including beatings and physical activities bordering on abuse.

The Thai military is also experiencing widespread negative sentiment as student protests have gained increasing traction in the last three months. Students are protesting the military involvement in politics and the armed forces self-elevated role in matters of governance.

The current government is led by a cabinet of former coup-leaders which overthrew a democratically-elected government in 2014.

Thais commenting online on Monday night and Tuesday morning highlighted these discrepancies and the rights of young Thais in choosing not to participate in military service.

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