Compulsory military conscription may become voluntary by next year, according to defense minister Sutin Klungsang.
Sutin confirmed that there had been talks with military leaders to transition the country to voluntary military conscription by April 2024. With the military becoming optional, Sutin said it is expected they will see a reduction in military personnel by 2027, which will help address the excessive number of high-ranking officers.
However, the level of reduction is a matter of speculation as military figures have not yet been disclosed to the public.
The meeting was held Sunday afternoon between Sutin, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, and Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara along with Chief of Defense Songwit Noonpakdi, Army Chief Charoenchai Hintao, and navy chief Adung Phaniam.
The military said it is committed to keeping the government informed about any challenges that might take place in the future. The timing of these plans remains to be seen, but Sutin said the government is committed to seeing the policy through without significant delay.
Serving in the military national service is the duty of all Thai citizens once they reach the age of 18, as part of the 1954 Military Service Act. In practice, only males over the age of 21 who have not gone through reserve training are subject to conscription, in which they would then enter the drawing of a red or black card.
A red card means they will enter military service for two years, while a black card means they are exempt. Students can postpone military conscription while studying until they are 27, after which they have to take part in the draw.
Both the Pheu Thai and the progressive Move Forward parties have vowed to reform the military, including abolishing mandatory conscription.