The question over the use of child soldiers in the conflict of Southern Thailand has raised its head again – this time in a 17 page report by Child Soldiers International. The report today is linked below.

Child soldiers have existed for decades if not hundreds of years in this region from kids, some very brutal in the Khmer Rouge to kids in the Karen National Liberation Army and other Burmese ethnic minorities.

The conflict in southern Thailand is perhaps one of Thailand’s most embarrassing internal political issues with attempts at appeasement failing as well as a hard line approach taken by some Thai Prime Ministers.

In any case where the majority are ruled by a minority the only way to solve the issue is to give the majority their right of self determination.

It has not happened yet on any scale – but southern Thailand’s insurgency could develop into a much more critical level.

Nevertheless the troubles have so far taken some 6000 lives in the last ten years.


Southern Thailand: Ongoing recruitment and use of children by armed groups January 2015

Children as young as 14 have been recruited and used by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (BRN) and other armed groups operating in southern Thailand, research by Child Soldiers International and the Cross Cultural Foundation shows. 

The research was conducted in nine districts in the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla between September 2013 and April 2014. Detailed interviews were conducted with 26 former and current members of armed groups, at least 13 of whom were recruited below the age of 18.  

(author with Johnny and Luther Htoo of ‘God’s Army’ in Burma)

The 17-page report details patterns of children being recruited into the BRN for diverse roles which include: working as lookouts to gather intelligence on state security forces; engaging in the use of firearms or in active combat during insurgent operations; and performing other support roles as informers. The number of children recruited and used by armed groups in Southern Thailand is not known. Both girls and boys are known to be recruited. 

Armed groups and forces have obligations under international law to stop, prohibit and prevent the recruitment of children or their use in hostilities. 

Thailand is also a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) which prohibits government forces and non-state armed groups from recruiting and using children in hostilities. 

The report includes urgent recommendations to the armed groups and the Thai Government in order to protect children from recruitment and use by armed groups in the south.



  1. "..The conflict in southern Thailand is perhaps one of Thailand's most embarrassing internal political issues.."

    Yes, perhaps we should make a list of Thailand's most embarrassing internal political issues..", (not) for fun.

    The roadways are a HUGE embarrassment for me, but I'm not even Thai. I wonder how Thais manage not to lose face, over having the most dangerous roads in the world for motorcycles (fatalities per 100,000 citizens), and the more-publicly reported 2'nd most dangerous roadways on the planet..

    It boggles the mind that no concrete action is taken, outside of minor crackdowns, that quickly fizzle –

    Perhaps the problem is so widespread that Thai Authorities don't know where to begin…

    In that case we are royally F—-d, because many Thais would rather die than lose face and admit such, or so it seems..

    I've driven around most of the country in my truck (save for the deep south), and you need your head on a bloody swivel..and a bit of good fortune..

  2. Thailand's never been colonised. (except the huge assimilation of Chinese into the elite of Thai society) and they're the worse for that. Mai bhen rai and face are major eastern issues holding them back in development, whether that is in flood prevention (they ignore Dutch advice) or driving (no on road driving tests, virtually no driver instruction) That's just two examples. Their legal systems, as AD keeps referring to, are another.

    But we're all guilty of not seeing other people's points of view. Both Time magazine and Nigel Farange misqoute "Je suis Charlie" as "I am Charlie" instead of "I follow Charlie" but don't know how to accept their mistake gracefully. So, we have Face in the West too.

  3. Well I think younger people have no real appreciation of the exponential growth Thailand has had over the last few decades. I remember Koh Samui in 1985 and there wasn't even electricity. All the generators at Chaweng were all turned off at 9pm and the island was in darkness, no fan, no light, just a candle and mosquito coil.

    You have the older generations who are rooted in the rural and undeveloped past and a younger generation obsessed with all the latest gadgets and phones etc. In the West we've had a century or more of modern technology but our societies were not too different to Thailand not so long ago.

    The Chinese have always been urban city dwellers, most of the inner city areas of most provinces resemble China or Hong Kong with shophouses dominating the landscape. The easy going attitude of the Thais is perfect in a rural or undeveloped country but development requires discipline and laws. In the west it is our fear of the law and its sanctions that keep us in line. Thais will have to get it right in the end or suffer the consequences.

    Even though I've been on the wrong side of the law, I prefer tough but fair coppers. Thailand has just bent coppers in the pockets of politicians and businessmen. The problem for Thailand is the subject nobody wants to talk about or is allowed to talk about. Ageing people who have been there to stop total chaos erupting won't be there forever. There are no role models in high Thai society, few selfless people to lead the way with benevolence and wisdom. The system is going to continue to struggle to reform as there is nobody with the political or military muscle to do it long term.

    I think it will take something very drastic to create change. A financial melt-down or strong slowing of the tourist industry may well be better for Thailand in the end. Thais have been enjoying great growth for decades but the inequality in society is arguably worst. This is not only a Thai problem.

Comments are closed.