Every April, Thailand begins its annual draft lottery to conscript Thai males, aged 21 and above, into military service. The young men line up to draw slips of paper; a red slip means one has to serve for two years, while a black indicates an exemption. Those who proactively volunteer will be spared this ritual, and will only be required to complete a six-month service.

Although Thailand’s 1954 Military Service Act states that all Thai males are required to serve in the military at the age of 21, there are exceptions to this rule. Methods of draft-dodging have triggered accusations of privilege and unfairness, and some have begun to argue that conscription should either be drastically cut down, or maybe even abolished completely.

A duty to nation, religion, and King

According to a recent survey, it’s believed that many Thais still feel obliged to serve in the military as their duty to nation, religion, and King. Military slogans are displayed in school textbooks. Soldiers are often portrayed positively in television and cinema.

Members only

Log in or

Join New Naratif as a member to continue reading


We are independent, ad-free and pro-democracy. Our operations are member-funded. Membership starts from just US$5/month! Alternatively, write to sponsorship@newnaratif.com to request a free sponsored membership. As a member, you are supporting fair payment of freelancers, and a movement for democracy and transnational community building in Southeast Asia.

Adam Bemma

Adam Bemma is a Canadian journalist, media trainer and media development advisor based in Bangkok, Thailand.