Faced with media reports about an Army private having to take care of an officer’s chickens and fighting cocks, Deputy Premier and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan on Tuesday insisted that there was no such thing as “servant soldiers”.
He said the practice of putting recruits to personal service was a thing of the past in the armed forces.
General Prawit allowed, however, that junior soldiers might be “willingly borrowed from other units to voluntarily serve their seniors”.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha refused to respond to media questions on the matter, saying only that it wasn’t his direct responsibility.
The secondary question raised on social media is whether young able-bodied men must go through compulsory military training when the country has faced no serious armed threat in decades.
But the chief focus of criticism is the appropriateness of military draftees being assigned to do personal chores for their superiors. It’s common for the “grunts” to help around the house at officers’ residences and run mundane errands.
Prawit seemed to imply that the military doesn’t officially have “servants”, but there is a tradition of putting foot soldiers to work polishing shoes.
Army chief General Chalermchai Sittisart on Monday said the private at the heart of this matter – he posted a video on Facebook complaining about being mistreated for being a poor rooster groom – would be returned to his unit without suffering repercussions.
The private said he was drafted and assigned to Thanarat Infantry Camp in Prachuap Khiri Khan, but had to live in unhygienic conditions while tending to the unidentified officer’s hens and cocks.
If he failed to meet expectations, he said, he was often scolded rudely and his face was slapped.