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Thailand Military - 2024


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Military and security forces

Royal Thai Armed Forces (Kongthap Thai, RTARF): Royal Thai Army (Kongthap Bok Thai, RTA), Royal Thai Navy (Kongthap Ruea Thai, RTN; includes Royal Thai Marine Corps), Royal Thai Air Force (Kongthap Akaat Thai, RTAF)

Office of the Prime Minister: Royal Thai Police (2024)

note 1: the Thai Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) oversees counter-insurgency operations, as well as countering terrorism, narcotics and weapons trafficking, and other internal security duties; it is primarily run by the Army

note 2: official paramilitary forces in Thailand include the Thai Rangers (Thahan Phran or "Hunter Soldiers") under the Army; the Paramilitary Marines under the Navy; the Border Patrol Police (BPP) under the Royal Thai Police; the Volunteer Defense Corps (VDC or O So) and National Defense Volunteers (NDV), both under the Ministry of Interior; there are also several government-backed volunteer militias created to provide village security against insurgents in the Deep South or to assist the ISOC

Military expenditures

1.3% of GDP (2022 est.)
1.3% of GDP (2021)
1.4% of GDP (2020)
1.3% of GDP (2019)
1.3% of GDP (2018)

Military and security service personnel strengths

estimated 350,000 active-duty personnel (250,000 Army; 70,000 Navy; 30,000 Air Force); approximately 230,000 Royal Thai Police (2023)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the RTARF has a diverse array of foreign-supplied weapons systems, including a considerable amount of older US equipment; over the past decade, Thailand has received arms from nearly 20 countries, with China, South Korea, Ukraine, and the US being among the leading suppliers; in recent years, Thailand has been making efforts to increase its domestic defense production capabilities in such areas as armored vehicles, unmanned aerial systems, and other military technologies (2023)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary military service for men and women; 21 years of age for compulsory military service for men; men register at 18 years of age; volunteer service obligation may be as short as 6 or 12 months, depending on educational qualifications; conscript service obligation also varies by educational qualifications, but is typically 24 months (2023)

note 1: serving in the armed forces is a national duty of all Thai citizens; conscription was introduced in 1905; it includes women, however, only men over the age of 21 who have not gone through reserve training are conscripted; conscripts are chosen by lottery (on draft day, eligible draftees can request volunteer service, or they may choose to stay for the conscription lottery); approximately 75-100,000 men are drafted for military service each year and conscripts reportedly comprise as much as 50% of the armed forces

note 2: as of 2020, women comprised about 8% of active-duty military personnel

Military deployments

275 South Sudan (UNMISS) (2023)

Military - note

the RTARF’s missions include defending the country’s territory and sovereignty, protecting the monarchy, ensuring internal security, and responding to natural disasters; it also plays a large role in domestic politics and has attempted more than 20 coups since the fall of absolute monarchy in 1932, the most recent being in 2014; the Army, formed in 1874, is the dominant service and has 15 combat divisions spread across four military regions; ten of the divisions are infantry, while the others are armored/mechanized cavalry, special forces, and artillery; established in 1906, the Navy’s principal warships include a light aircraft/helicopter carrier, a landing platform dock (LPD) amphibious assault ship, and nearly 20 frigates, corvettes, and offshore patrol vessels; it also has a marine infantry division; the Air Force, established in 1913, is one of the oldest in Southeast Asia and has around 100 combat aircraft

since 2004, the military has fought against separatist insurgents in the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, as well as parts of Songkhla; the insurgency is rooted in ethnic Malay nationalist resistance to Thai rule that followed the extension of Siamese sovereignty over the Patani Sultanate in the 18th century; the insurgency consists of several armed groups, the largest of which is the Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Koordinasi (BRN-C): since 2020, Thai officials have been negotiating with BRN, and has parallel talks with an umbrella organization, MARA Pattani, that claims to represent the insurgency groups; since 2004, violence associated with the insurgency has claimed more than 7,300 lives (as of 2023); the Thai Government has had as many as 100,000 military and paramilitary forces deployed in the south to combat the insurgency

Thailand has Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) status with the US, a designation under US law that provides foreign partners with certain benefits in the areas of defense trade and security cooperation; the Thai and US militaries host the annual "Cobra Gold" multinational military exercises in Thailand; the exercise is one of the largest multinational exercises in the Pacific region (2023)

NOTE: The information regarding Thailand on this page is re-published from the 2024 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Thailand 2024 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Thailand 2024 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 04 May 24, Copyright © 2024 ITA all rights reserved.