Royal Thai Armed Forces
The Royal Thai Armed Forces (Thai: กองทัพไทย: Kongthap Thai) is the name of the military of the Kingdom of Thailand. It consists of the following branches:
- Royal Thai Army (กองทัพบกไทย)
- Royal Thai Navy (กองทัพเรือไทย, ราชนาวีไทย)
- Royal Thai Marine Corps (นาวิกโยธินไทย)
- Royal Thai Air Force (กองทัพอากาศไทย)
- Other Paramilitary Forces
Created in 1852, the Royal Thai Armed Forces came into existence as permanent force at the behest of King Mongkut, who needed a European trained military force in order to thwart any western threat and any attempts at colonialization. By 1887 during the next reign, King Chulalongkorn a permanent military command in the Kalahom Department was established. However the office of Kalahom and the military of Siam had existed since the days of the Sukhothai Kingdom in the 13th Century. In fact the history of the Kings of Siam is teeming with tales of military conquest and power. However since 1932, when the military, with the help of civilians, decided to overthrow the system of absolute monarchy and instead created a constitutional system, the military has dominated and been in control of Thai politics, providing it with many Prime Ministers and carrying out many Coup d'états, the most recent being in 2006.
Today the Royal Thai Armed Forces comprises about 858,000 personnel. The Head of the Thai Armed Forces (จอมทัพไทย: Chomthap Thai) is His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), however this position is only nominal. The Armed Forces is ostensibly managed by the Ministry of Defense of Thailand, which is headed by the Minister of Defence (a member of the Cabinet of Thailand) and commanded by the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, which in turn is headed by the Chief of Defence Forces of Thailand. In fact, however, the Thai military is a power unto itself, under direction of elites who control action and thought in the country.
According to the Constitution of the Kingdom, serving in the Armed Forces is a duty of all Thai citizens. However only males over the age of 21 who have not gone through reserve training are subjected to a random draft. Those chosen randomly are subjected to twenty-four months fulltime service, while volunteers are subjected to eighteen months service, depending on their education.
The Royal Thai Armed Forces Day is celebrated on January 18 to commemorate the victory of King Naresuan the Great in battle against the Vice-King of Burma in 1593.