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Royal Thai Armed Forces

Under direct command of the Ministry of Defence, the Kingdom of Thailand has about 314,000 armed forces (fig.), consisting of both regular cadres and conscripts. Men reaching the age of twenty-one are subject to two years of compulsory military service and conscription is determined by lot. At the age of twenty every boy is summoned to come and draw a lot of which the colour determines the outcome: if the colour is red, one is drafted; if black, one is exempt (fig.). Volunteers may join up at the age of 18. The military includes three main branches: the Royal Thai Army (fig.) with about 190,000 staff (fig.), the Royal Thai Navy with around 79,000 personnel (including naval aviation personnel and members of the marine corps), and the Royal Thai Air Force, estimated at 45,000. Reserve forces total about 200,000 recruits. In addition, the Royal Thai Army has a Medical Department (fig.), which in Thai is known as krom phaet thahaan bok and which in 2010 celebrated its 110th anniversary (fig.). The King is the rightful head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces and he and his family are guarded by the Royal Guards (fig.), i.e. the King's Own Guard (fig.), whose former barracks are located within the compound of the Grand Palace (fig.) in Bangkok (fig.) and of which since 1978 has been headed by the Crown Prince, as well as by a special royal protective unit of the Royal Thai Police. Military cadets (fig.) are trained in the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy (fig.), which was founded on 5 August 1887 by King Rama V (fig.) and initially housed in the back of the Saranrom Palace (fig.) in Bangkok, where today the Royal Thai Survey Department (fig.) is located. The Headquarters of the Royal Thai Armed Forces are in Bangkok's Laksi District (map - fig.), whilst the Headquarters of the Royal Thai Army is located in Phra Nakhon (fig.), Royal Thai Navy HQ in the old Wichai Prasit Fort (fig.) in the former Thonburi Palace (fig.), and the Royal Thai Air Force Headquarters on the eastern side of Don Meuang Airport (fig.). National Armed Forces Day (fig.) is celebrated annually on 18 January, to commemorate the victory of King Naresuan the Great (fig.), who defeated the Burmese crown prince in a duel fought on the back of a war elephant (fig.) on 18 January 1593, in the Battle of Nong Sarai. In Thai, the Royal Thai Armed Forces are referred to as kong thap and saenyahkon, which can be translated as ‘army’, ‘troops’ or ‘military might’. See also Krasuang Kalaahome, History of Thai Army Uniforms, and ranks of the Thai military.