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Bullying In The Thai Army

Boo Radley

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Bullying, unfortunately, is common in armies throughout the world.

Came across these videos below, which are doing the rounds on Thai Facebook at the moment.

In the first video, the poster says he doesn't know what the soldier was being punished for. The 2nd video was apparently sparked by the soldiers being caught smoking and refusing to admit to it when confronted.

Quite a few of the Thai posters said the soldiers dealing out the assault should be punished by being sent down South to deal with the separatist insurgency instead of the recruits they were training.

Anyway, can't imagine it will do much good for the image of the Thai army and conscription there. Any farang with Luk Kreung who might be subject to the draft, take heed.



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Also came across this story from 2 years ago in the BKK Post, where a conscript, Wichen Puaksom, who deserted, was punished by being beaten to death by fellow soldiers. A rare story where the BKK Post actually did a bit of investigative journalism.


Deadly Army Discipline

Armed forces beating claims the life of an honours graduate, but family's call for justice goes unheeded

Published: 24/07/2011 at 12:00 AM

Newspaper section: Spectrum, BKK Post

When Songkhla native Wichen Puaksom left home to join the military in May, he was healthy, energetic, and eager to serve the nation.

A month later, the lifeless, bruise-covered body of the 26-year-old masters graduate was back in his home town to be cremated.

Wichen did not die in the service of the country he loved, but was beaten to death at his military camp by about a dozen low-ranked and mid-ranked soldiers as punishment for disobeying orders and absconding from camp.

Wichen's disfigured face and injured body moved family members to the conviction that justice must be done for Wichen.

They started submitting petition letters to state agencies seeking an explanation for what happened.

The Narathiwat Ratchanakarin army camp, where he served time as a conscript, sent soldiers to his funeral, asking if it could cover his coffin with the national flag, but the family refused.

His family says the flag draped over Wichen's coffin cannot disguise the atrocity which he suffered at the hands of the state.

They say Wichen was beaten to death in a form of institutionalised torture condoned by army top brass to drum ''discipline'' into errant troops.

Wichen, who reported for conscription after leaving the monkhood, might have found life as a conscript unbearable, so fled the Narathiwat Ratchanakarin military camp where he was being trained.

When soldiers from the camp caught up with him, they beat him as punishment, in a form of military correctional training known as ''repairing''.

The Human Rights Commission, which investigated his death at the request of Wichen's family, says he was beaten over the course of several days, and denied medical treatment by the army when fighting for his life.

Wichen died in Narathiwat Provincial Hospital's intensive care unit on June 5 of multiple injuries, including a ruptured kidney. The commission believes he was subjected to three days of beating, starting on June 1.

His mother, Prathuang Puaksom, a farmer and vendor in Songkhla province, said she is struggling to come to terms with the loss.

Her plucky niece, student Narisarawan Kaewnopparat, has taken up the fight for justice on the family's behalf.

''We want the military to acknowledge publicly what it has done,'' said Narisarawan, a student at Thammasat University.

She recalls Wichen, her mother's youngest brother, as a quietly spoken, unassuming man who did not pick fights with anyone.

''Four people in Songkhla who attended his funeral told us that the army killed their sons in the same way.

''They did not dare complain. They asked, 'how can poor farmers such as ourselves fight the army? We have no power','' she said.

She has petitioned the army, the government, and Privy Council president Prem Tinasolanonda, a former army head who is also a Songkhla native.

Her advocacy met with partial success, when the Fourth Army Region setting up an inquiry into the attack.

It says it will discipline the officers involved, but has stopped short of condemning the attack, or saying whether this form of correctional training will continue.

''My grandmother is in such pain. She was looking forward to relying on my uncle, as he is the youngest son,'' Narisarawan said.

''She was proud of him as he was a good, humble person and excelled at study as well.''

The Narathiwat Ratchanakarin military camp sent officers to his funeral, and offered to pay the family compensation for his death.

They draped Wichen's coffin in the the national flag to show that he died serving the nation.

But the family says no amount of military ceremony can disguise the fact that Wichen died at the hands of the army's own officers, after entrusting himself to their care.

Wichen reported for military service on May 1, and made his first escape from the camp on May 9.

He fled a second time on May 29, but, without money, was forced to take shelter nearby.

The army caught him, and started to work on him with a regime of ''disciplinary improvement'' or ''repairing'' on June 1.

Eyewitnesses told the commission that the punishment started at 11.50am on June 1, and and lasted until noon of June 3.

He suffered extensive injuries during the ordeal and was sent to nearby Chor Ai-Rong district hospital in Narathiwat.

A doctor told the commission hearing that the army would not allow Wichen to be admitted.

Officers merely wanted his injuries treated, after which they would take him back to camp to be cared for by an army physician.

However, the hospital doctor insisted he be admitted, as his condition was serious.

The commission sub-committee investigating the death learned later that the doctor in-charge at the camp was on leave.

Officers relented and allowed Wichen to be admitted. Chor Ai-rong hospital referred him to Narathiwat Provincial Hospital, as he needed specialised equipment for to help his liver circulate blood.

At the provincial hospital, Wichen was admitted to intensive care, his condition severe. No one told his family.

His mother and brother learned that he had been admitted only by accident, after a friend happened to visit the hospital on June 4.

Wichen's mother and brother travelled by bus to the hospital the next day, arriving about 1pm.

By then, Wichen was too ill to speak.

''His eyes still open but he could no longer speak, but we have learned from well-wishers who visited Wichen beforehand about what happened _ how people tortured him, and their ranks,'' said Manas, his elder brother.

The family is amazed that the army would resort to such vicious conduct, just to ensure a soldier obeys orders.

''Wichen entered the military after serving in the monkhood for eight years. He might not have been as strong as people who had been working outside the monkhood,'' said Mr Manas.

Wichen recently finished a masters degree at Thammasat University, and earlier graduated with a bachelors degree from Maha Chula Ratchawittayalai (Buddhist) University with first class honours.

On July 11, the commission asked the army to send officers in charge at the camp to testify.

Angkhana Neelapaijit, a member of the sub-committee investigating the death, said she could not believe what went on.

''I could not believe that this is how they punish someone who fails to follow orders,'' she said.

When Wichen's body returned home on June 6, family says it was covered in bruises. Even his private parts were swollen _ the size of a ''coconut'', said Ms Angkhana, a former nurse.

The Fourth Army Region, which also ordered an investigation into the case, identified the main culprit for what it described as ''light torture'' as a drug addict. He was sent for a test for illegal substances, which came back positive.

The inquiry found that 13 officers, both high- and low-ranked, were involved in Wichen's death.

The report summarises the events which led up to his death as follows.

When he was sent back to camp on June 1, he was hit by an assistant trainer, who ordered two other soldiers to ''repair'' him while a ranked officer looked on.

Two officers dragged Wichen by the legs across a cement floor. He was wearing only his underwear.

Eyewitness also reported seeing officers kick him with their combat shoes, stomp on his legs and body, and apply salt to his wounds. They also trampled on his chest.

This round of ''repairing'' lasted for two hours.

Wichen was taken to the showers and sent to a nursing room, where other officers carried on kicking him.

In a grisly touch, five to six conscripts were told to carry Wichen, who was wrapped in white cloth, his hands tied, around as if he was dead.

At the military camp canteen, he was told to sit on a large block of ice while wearing only his underwear.

He was carried by six soldiers to the front of training unit with large block of ice sitting on his chest.

In front of the training unit, Wichen was ordered to perform exercises. A mid-ranked officer beat him with a bamboo stick, telling him to go faster.

He kicked Wichen's ribs and chest, trampled on his neck, and kicked him in the face until blood flowed. Wichen begged them to stop and said he wouldn't refuse their orders any more.

An officer who looked down from the second floor of the training unit told the officer beating Wichen not to treat him too harshly, but did nothing to stop the attack.

The mid-ranked officer took Wichen to the rear of the training unit where he continued beating him with his feet and a bamboo stick until 11pm. This attack lasted five hours.

Eyewitnesses said they found Wichen in a bad condition in the nursing room on June 2, but nobody dared send him to hospital.

Wichen asked a conscript to tell his mother if he happened to die of his injuries, as he felt in pain all over his body. Officers did not take him to hospital until the next day.

The army has recommended punishing the officers involved.

One high-ranked officer has been warned; four other officers will be confined for 15 days; two officers will be confined for seven days; three middle-rank and six low rank officers will be confined for 30 days.

Two mid-ranked officers will be jailed for three months, and military charges brought against others.

One mid-ranked officer will be stripped of his rank, after challenging Wichen to file charges against him with the army chief.

Only four officials were supposed to turn up for the commission hearing, but only two bothered to show.

Beatings administered to conscripts to 'keep the armed forces tough'

Wichen Pauksom's family has faced an uphill battle seeking answers as to why he died.

The army decides how much information it wants to issue. That deemed too sensitive, it protects in the name of "national security".

The Bangkok Post asked the army on July 7 how many conscripts had died while being conscripted over the past five years.

We followed up the letter on July 21, when an official said no response had been received from the army's higher ranks.

The army has yet to acknowledge formally that it imposed a form of punishment known as "repairing", so no one knows what the army might define as an acceptable level of punishment. However, parents who are aware of the beating are known to be worried that their sons, if called up for conscription, could be next to befall the same fate.

Narisarawan Kaewnoparat, Wichen's niece, is determined to seek justice.

"My family does not want this to happen to anyone else," she said.

Wichen was required to serve as a military conscript.

Narissarawan understands that the army needs to make its men strong and tough. But this was going too far.

Under section 32 of the constitution, a person shall enjoy the right and liberty in his life and person.

Torture, brutal acts or punishment by a cruel or inhumane means are prohibited, and punishment delivered by the courts shall be reasonable as defined under international norms of cruel and inhumane treatment.

Where breaches occur, the injured person, public prosecutor or any person acting for the benefit of the injured person has the right to take a lawsuit to the court.

One lecturer at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, who asked not to be named, said the army believes the defence forces are "too weak".

This lecturer said "repairing" is needed to make them obey orders.

"If they are captured by a foreign army, they should be able to endure pain, or they could reveal official secrets.

"But the proper [method of] repairing is under consideration of the person in charge," the army teacher added.

However, the government is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT).

As an extra safeguard, the constitution guarantees a person right and liberty in his life and person.

Activist Angkhana Neelapaijit is a founder of the Justice for Peace Foundation and member of the Human Rights Commission sub-committee which investigated the death.

She said Wichen's case reflected many problems in Thai society. "When he reported to the military camp, his life was supposed to be under the care and protection of officials.

"However, he was tortured and deprived of access to care, even when the beating left him in a severe condition.

"The army still did not allow him to be treated. If it wasn't for the doctor at Chor Ai-rong hospital who insisted he be admitted, Wichen might have died sooner, or perhaps been reported 'missing' from the camp," she said.

She recommended "repairing" be abolished and said parents or relatives should be allowed to see their sons while they are being trained.

"It is hard to judge what is moderate or proper. But this is too much," she said, adding that if officials want conscripts to be tough, they need to be brave enough to admit their faults as well. They had yet to do so."They need to compensate the family fully, and justice must be done.

"If the mechanism in Thailand fails, we will take this issue before the United Nations, as Thailand is a signatory of the CAT," she said.

Writer: Supara Janchitfah

Position: Spectrum Reporter


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My youngest brother in law went in about 2 weeks ago for his lucky drawing.

He drew black.. My mother in law was very happy about that.

Was kinda worried for him as when him and my mother in law went to find out his drawing date, my mother in law was told for a small tea donation he would get all black. Hint Hint wink wink.

She said we are a poor family, man said I hear you have a american son in law.

We do but he is poor also and walked out.

When I heard that I was worried he might have gotten all red balls.

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When I was in BCT at Fort Ord, two trainees were caught smoking. The drill sergeants made them tape together an entire pack of cigarettes each. Then they had to puff on them until the cigarettes were gone. I heard the guys heaving their guts out for 15 or 20 minutes afterwards. Not a word said to the drill sergeants about it. The trainee in the bunk above mine was late getting up one morning. The drill sergeant pulled him out of the top bunk, breaking his leg when he hit the floor. But usually the drill sergeants had trainees do their dirty work for them. There were always a few gung ho buttholes eager to do so, the SOBs. Blanket parties, wall-to--wall counselling... happened often enough. No one dared raise a hand against the trainee Kapos, since the drill sergeant was always there to back them up.


This crap used to happen in the US forces. I went through BCT with a former Marine who had been to Parris Island. He told me it was exactly the same there, maybe even worse. Fortunately, such actions nowadays would cost a drill sergeant his stripes and put him in a military prison. It seems the Thai Army hasn't learned yet.


p.s. I've mentioned before that a trainee finally cracked and was taken away in a straight jacket. No pretense either. Fond memories of Fort Ord - not!

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My youngest brother in law went in about 2 weeks ago for his lucky drawing.

He drew black.. My mother in law was very happy about that.

Was kinda worried for him as when him and my mother in law went to find out his drawing date, my mother in law was told for a small tea donation he would get all black. Hint Hint wink wink.

She said we are a poor family, man said I hear you have a american son in law.

We do but he is poor also and walked out.

When I heard that I was worried he might have gotten all red balls.


Is it too late for him to enlist in the Air Force? The Air Force has it easy, just as air forces usually do everywhere. That's why the USAF has a very high career percentage.

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A taxi driver who had been a conscript once asked me if an officer could order soldiers to mow his grass, wash his car etc. I told him that would probably earn a US officer a court-martial. He said it happened all the time in the Thai army. My former department head was a general's wife. Any time there was a faculty luncheon, it would arrive in big metal pans delivered by young soldiers. The food was fantastic, presumably from the officer's mess. The privates just delivered it and waited to take the pans away. Sounds a bit like feudalism to me.

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