Thai activists called to report for army service

Thai soldiers stand guard after army chief Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha met with anti-government and pro-government leaders in Bangkok on May 22, 2014. (Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)
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Two high-profile student activists are among hundreds of thousands of Thai men being called to report for this year’s military conscription.

Ja New: An outspoken government critic

According to the army, the draft list includes Sirawith “Ja New” Seritiwat, of the anti-coup New Democracy Movement, and Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, a staunch critic of the Thai education and political system.

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Mr Sirawith is known for his anti-coup activism, and the Thammasat University student has had several run-ins with the law in connection with his anti-coup protests.

Mr Netiwit has made it known that he is not a fan of military conscription for moral reasons, and advocated voluntary drafting.

Mr Sirawith yesterday questioned the military’s motive for publishing such a list.

“I heard the army’s list gives special attention to activists even though reporting for conscription is a normal thing for Thai men. I think there is a hidden motive behind this,” he wrote on Facebook.

According to the student, though he disagrees with the draft he will not defy the law. He also warned the army not to mistreat him or politicise the matter.

“The army sees me as an enemy and some army men have treated me badly. I don’t trust them. But I’ll be there and we’ll see,” he said.

Mr Netiwit, meanwhile, said yesterday he would not report for military conscription. “If I entered the army as a soldier, I would be trampled to death,” he said, adding he disagrees with military conscription because it thrusts people into a world of violence and killing. He said he would seek postponement for his conscription.

Lt Gen Weerachai Intusophon, commander of Territorial Defence Command, yesterday urged Mr Netiwit to obey the law or face prosecution for draft-dodging.

“He can’t run or hide from conscription. It is a duty call for Thai men and it is the law,” he said.

According to Lt Gen Weerachai, the student can seek a postponement until he completes his study and if he wishes Mr Netiwit can express his opposition to the conscription as long as he does not violate any laws.

“I can assure Mr Netiwit that he will not be mistreated. We don’t do things like that,” he said.

As for Mr Sirawith, who faces charges in connection with his anti-coup protest, Lt Gen Weerachai said he is not sure about the procedures and will study this case.

According to this year list, several celebrities to be called for duty include actor James Ma, singer Thanon Chamroen (Non the Voice), singer Saharat Hiranthanaphuwadol (Sing to the Star) and likay performer Sornram Namphet.

Also required for duty are sons of high-profile politicians including Seranee Charnveerakul, son of Bhumjaithai Party leader Anuthin, and Anak Kosayodhin, son of former Bangkok governor Apirak Kosayodhin.

Thai national football player Peerapat Notchaiya and athlete Piyasiri Intaraprasong have also been called.

Assistant army chief Gen Theppong Thipayachan said this year’s conscription will take place early next month, across the country.

A total of 361,233 young men are being called to report as part of this year’s military conscription. Of this number, 103,097 will be drafted to join the military service.

-The Bangkok Post

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