Seri Butwong died after serving in the military for only 15 days. The hashtag "abolish conscription" hit the twitter top trend; opposition MPs questioned the Armed Forces over their failures in taking care of personnel.
Pvt Seri Butwong, a conscript in the Directorate of Joint Communications, died at the Royal Thai Air Force Hospital, Bangkok, on 14 September. Heart arrhythmia has been given as the cause of death.
Nathasa Rochai, a relative of Seri posted on Facebook that a military general informed him of Seri’s death on 14 September, after Seri started service on 1 September.
Maj Gen Theerapong Patamasing Na Ayutthya), Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters spokesperson, said that the Commander-in-Chief had been informed about the death and ordered a thorough fact-finding process to give justice and clarification to the family. He also ordered the Directorate to provide the best funeral.
At 12.00 on 14 September, Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital reported that heart arrhythmia was the cause of death by following sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS). Seri had not been assaulted. Seri’s father was informed by medical staff and viewed his body. His father does not believe that the death was suspicious.
The Directorate of Joint Communications will be responsible for all funeral expenses. The Directorate will also pay Seri’s father compensation of 200,000 baht.
After the death was reported on media, the hashtag #ยกเลิกเกณฑ์ทหาร (#Abolish conscription) hit the twitter top trend.
Thailand experiences repeated deaths of conscripted soldiers. Many result from the violent corporal punishment that recruits suffer, including assaults by officers or senior recruits.
On 16 September, Rangsiman Rome and Viroj Lakkana-adisorn, MPs from the Move Forward Party (MFP), questioned the Armed Forces over their failures in taking care of personnel.
Rangsiman questioned the military for not being able to screen the health of recruits before service, which led to this death. Many conscripts were assigned as the personal servants of senior officers. He said it is time to abolish conscription.
Rangsiman also said that on 14 November 2019, MFP had submitted a Military Service Bill, which replaces conscription with a volunteer force. The draft is still under consideration by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Prime Minister and Defence Minister.
Viroj questioned the necessity of recruiting almost a hundred thousand soldiers this year as the prospects of Thailand being involved in a war appear remote. The last declared war was the Indo-China War of 1940. Military personnel these days are made personal servants of their commanders, harassing each other and the people. He insisted that recruitment must become voluntary in order to develop the Armed Forces’ professionalism and welfare.
According to the 1954 Military Service Act, it is obligatory for Thai males to serve in the military at the age of 21. Recently, 97,324 men were recruited in the 2020 draft.