in the army now

March 22, 2008

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Transsexuals to recieve more respect

Wassana Nanuam, Bangkok Post, 19th March 2008

Transsexuals, or katoey, will be treated with more respect when they go through the annual military conscription process. The armed forces plan to amend a regulation to do away with the offensive labelling of katoey as suffering from ”a mental disorder”.

The proposed new term – ”people with illnesses that cannot be cured within 30 days” – has been coined to describe transsexuals, who are exempted from military service, said Lt-Gen Somkiat Sutthiwaiyakij, director-general of the army’s Reserve Command Department.

The term will only be used when the draft process is under way.

On their official Sor Dor 43 conscription certificates, transsexuals will only be described as ”belonging to the third category”, Lt-Gen Somkiat said.

Previously, transsexuals who failed the draft would be referred to as suffering from ”a permanent mental disorder”.

The term sparked outrage among gay rights and human rights advocates who considered it an insult to transsexuals and a blot on their reputation.

With such wording on the Sor Dor 43 certificate, which is essential for work applications, a lot of transsexuals complained that they stood little chance of securing a decent job.

Lt-Gen Somkiat said efforts have been made to amend a Defence Ministry regulation on illnesses that are an obstacle to being a soldier.

He admitted it had been a very touchy subject when it came to coining a new term to describe transsexuals who submitted to the draft.

”Our initial solution is that they will be tentatively called people with illnesses that cannot be cured within 30 days.

”And they will be required to show up for the annual draft for three years in a row. ”If they still appear to be katoey, they will be exempted from service,” Lt-Gen Somkiat said.

However, katoey will be described as ”belonging to the third category” on their Sor Dor 43 certificates, which should sound more acceptable to them, he said.

He expected the amendment to come into effect next year.

The definition of transsexuals will be based on advice from doctors, he added.

The army’s annual draft this year will take place from April 1-12. Thai men who are 21 or were born in 1987 are required to submit to the draft.

New army conscripts will receive an monthly salary of 1,550 baht and a daily allowance of 75 baht.

Assistant army commander Gen Jiradet Khotcharat said the army had set up 154 committees to supervise the annual draft to make sure it is free of fraud and bribery.

Gen Jiradet said the army must be careful in drafting men from the three strife-torn southernmost provinces for fear that insurgent sympathisers could mix with and infiltrate the army.

He said military training would help instil good attitudes into conscripts from the South and help them stay away from insurgents.

This year, a total of 85,760 new conscripts will be recruited into the armed forces. Of these, 1,392 will go to the Defence Ministry and the Supreme Command, 62,323 to the army, 16,000 to the navy and 6,045 to the air force.

More than 20,000 conscripts have agreed to sign up for military service so far

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