Thailand History

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Royal Thai Army troops inspecting shipment of United States military equipment in 1954
Courtesy National Archives

Royal Thai Army Commander in Chief General Chaovalit Yongchaiyut
Courtesy Voice of America

Former Prime Minister (1977-80) Kriangsak Chomanand
Courtesy Royal Thai Embassy

Figure 15. High Command of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, 1987.

Figure 16. Field Command of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, 1987.

Figure 17. Major Thai Military Installations, 1987.

Figure 18. Officer Rank Insignia, 1987.

Figure 19. Enlisted Rank Insignia, 1987.

The Thai military establishment historically has played an important role in the country’s national life. Composed of heterogeneous elements of regular cadres and conscripts, the armed forces in mid-1987 had a total strength of approximately 273,000 officers and enlisted personnel on active duty. Component services included the Royal Thai Army of 190,000, the Royal Thai Navy of 40,000, and the Royal Thai Air Force of 43,000. The navy’s personnel strength included 20,000 marines.

The military’s reputation as the center of political power manifested itself in nearly a score of coups and countercoups between 1932 and 1987. Over the years, its role as a political instrument had detracted from its abilities as a professional military force. Doubts about the state of combat readiness had been expressed by some members of the Thai officer corps as well as by foreign military observers. By the 1980s, the military had acted to increase the professionalism of its personnel-- particularly the officer corps--and to modernize its units and weaponry.

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