Future Forward Party, a new progressive political party led by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a famous millionaire, ran an online poll regarding military conscription in Thailand. From 24-31 December 2018, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit posted an opinion poll on his facebook page with a message:
You can choose. #FutureForwardParty proposes a military reform policy for a modern army. End conscription, have a voluntary armed force except during wartime, cut the military establishment by half to 170,000, reduce the number of generals from 1,600 to 400.
The party reports that given two choices - “end conscription” and “keep conscription”, - 92% of 81,000 participants wants ending conscription in Thailand.
Lt Gen Pongsakorn Rodchompoo, Deputy Leader of Future Forward Party and the one who proposed the policy, said it is pleasing that among 81,000 people, there are 74,520 supported the end of conscription. This number is even enough for a constitutional amendment. With 5-year renewable contracts until 45 years of age for professional soldiers to climb from NCO to lieutenant colonel, and scholarship and career funding after retirement, the majority of soldiers will be younger, stronger, more knowledgeable, more proficient, and more energetic than we see today.
Lieutenant General Pongsakorn Rodchompoo
Invoking the principle of equality, Lt Gen Pongsakorn also pledged to abolish the Reserve Officer Training programme for students, a channel that enable high school students in Thailand to avoid military conscription by undergoing military training while they are at school. “We will give volunteer soldiers thorough training with the same standards and equip them with knowledge about democracy and military traditions”, said Lt Gen Pongsakorn.
Future Forward Party is not the only party to propose an end to conscription. After four years of military dictatorship and repetitive abuses of human rights in military camps, conscription and military reform become a controversial issue in the upcoming election.
Parit ‘Itim’ Wacharasindhu, a member of Democrat Party, a nephew of Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of Democrat Party, and Watana Muangsook, a leading member of Pheu Thai Party, have also advocated ending conscription in Thailand.