Re: “Army tells trainers to end mistreatment of recruits, bans photos and videos”, Around Thailand, May 16.
After several cases of alleged mistreatment of conscript trainees and first-year military cadets, some with fatal consequences, the Royal Thai Army sent out a memo to remind its training instructors that all punishments should be strictly according to regulations.
To promote fairness for all and openness to the public, the taking of photos and videos during training would be... prohibited.
By sending such a memo to all training officers, the military implicitly acknowledges that mistreatment of conscript trainees has happened in the recent past. But rather than improving the training methods the solution the military sees is to squash any reporting of unfair treatment.
The military is an institution that should be there to protect Thailand from outside aggression or insurgency within its borders, but it should also be an exemplar of the Thai institutions and uphold the Constitution.
While a basic principle enshrined in the Constitution is a separation of powers between a legislative, executive and an independent judicial branch of authority, the military hierarchy has a propensity to set the rules, enforce them and mete out punishment unchecked. When the time comes that my son might have to go through Thai military conscription, I would request a written guarantee from the military that no physical or emotional harm will be done to him, that if on some occasion he is caught breaking any rule there would be an independent judgement process and that his human and constitutional rights will be respected at all times. Actually, every parent who has a conscripted son in the military should ask for such basic guarantees. Preparations are already being made in case such a guarantee is not forthcoming. Moreover, I think it is high time that the military returns to their barracks rather than stay on in Ban Phitsanulok.