Thanathorn running wrong campaign, says Prayut

Thanathorn running wrong campaign, says Prayut

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha accuses Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for allegedly running the
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha accuses Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for allegedly running the "wrong campaign" by calling for the abolition of military conscription. (Photo by Wassana Nanuam)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is accusing Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of running the "wrong campaign" by calling for the abolition of military conscription. He said this will only stop the public from actively participating in national security.

Gen Prayut, who is also defence minister, made the comment on Thursday in reaction to Mr Thanathorn's relentless campaign for the military service bill, which aims to replace conscription with voluntary service. 

“We have already drafted men on a voluntary basis,” Gen Prayut said, referring to the option draftees are given. The army drafts around 100,000 personnel on a yearly basis. 

“It [conscription] doesn’t mean everybody has to become a soldier,” the prime minister said.

If teenagers want to pursue their studies, they can opt to study under the Ror Dor territorial defence programme to avoid taking their chances at a draw, he added.

Each April, eligible men who have not attened the programme must participate in the draw with a choice of two cards: black for exemption, red for mandatory enlistment. 

At present, between 70% and 80% of new conscripts are drafted when they draw the red ballot. The remainder are those who join the army voluntarily.

This long-established conscription system has already matched the need for soldiers to work in security missions and disaster rehabilitation, Gen Prayut said, adding that without conscripting soldiers, Thailand will be at risk.

“Should we scrap the conscription and hire soldiers?" Gen Prayut asked. "If so, how much will we have to spend? Do we have a budget large enough for that?"

Instead, he said, Mr Thanathorn should not see conscription in a negative light. In fact, the premier said, military training instils discipline and helps society. 

“I don’t believe he [Mr Thanathorn] is fighting for a good cause. He’s campaigning for the wrong thing," Gen Prayut said, adding that it was not a good idea to stop people from participating in the country's security affairs, as this participation helps boost the economy and social development. 

Gen Prayut also pointed out that soldiers are among the "first rescuers" when there are natural disasters like floods or drought.


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