Thai Activist Risks Jail for Refusing Military Conscription

Thai activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal risks jail for refusing mandatory military service, protesting a system he claims is unfair and undermines democracy.

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Salman Khan
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Thai Activist Risks Jail for Refusing Military Conscription

Thai Activist Risks Jail for Refusing Military Conscription

Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, a 27-year-old Thai activist, is risking imprisonment for refusing to participate in Thailand's mandatory military conscription lottery in April 2024. Chotiphatphaisal is protesting against a system he claims is outdated, unfair to the poor, and undermines democracy in the country.

Every April, young Thai men are required to take part in a lottery that determines whether they will be forced to serve in the military for up to two years. Chotiphatphaisal's refusal to draw a card is a rare act of conscientious objection in Thailand, where the rich often find ways to avoid serving in the army.

If convicted, Chotiphatphaisal could become the first person in Thailand to be imprisoned for avoiding the draft through civil disobedience. The offense carries a maximum sentence of three years. Chotiphatphaisal, a prominent activist, announced his objection to military service as a teenager after the 2014 military coup. He believes the system "brainwashes people" and is part of a wider system that undermines Thailand's democracy.

The concept of being a conscientious objector is relatively new in Thailand, and there are many legal and illegal ways for people to avoid military service, often depending on their resources. The system disproportionately affects the poorest, with those forced to serve losing their jobs or career opportunities.

Why this matters: Chotiphatphaisal's protest comes amid growing calls for reform of Thailand's military conscription system, which has been criticized for incidents of violence, humiliation, and sexual assault against conscripts, particularly those from the LGBTQ+ community. The issue has gained more attention in recent years, with youth-led protests in 2020 challenging the military's role in Thai politics.

Past research has found evidence of violence, humiliation, and sexual assault against new conscripts, particularly LGBTQ individuals. While the government claims such incidents are rare, they have added to the pressure for reform of the military conscription system.

Chotiphatphaisal is anxious about the potential consequences of his refusal but believes someone needs to take a stand to highlight the problems with the system. His protest could make him the first person in Thailand to be imprisoned for avoiding the draft through civil disobedience, which carries a maximum sentence of three years.

Key Takeaways

  • Thai activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal risks jail for refusing military draft
  • Chotiphatphaisal protests mandatory conscription as unfair, undemocratic system
  • Conscientious objection is rare in Thailand, where the rich often avoid service
  • Conscription system disproportionately affects the poor, with reports of abuse
  • Chotiphatphaisal's protest could make him the first jailed for draft avoidance