A navy sergeant in Thailand has been jailed after video footage that allegedly showed him forcing trainee marines to drink human semen went viral online.
The clip, which was filmed at a naval training camp in Chon Buri’s Sattahip district in October but surfaced last week, reportedly shows a Navy instructor punishing conscripts by forcing them to drink semen mixed with fish sauce. Petty Officer Second Class Taksin Ngokpilai is accused of being the perpetrator and has been detained for 30 days, a Royal Thai Navy spokesman told the Bangkok Post.
Ngokpilai will be discharged from service at a later date, while his superiors—the commander of the Royal Thai Marine Corps’ Security Department and the head of the department’s command and service company—will also be suspended for seven days and 15 days, respectively.
The conscripts featured in the video from last October were recently discharged after completing six months in the military, according to the Bangkok Post.
Military conscription is mandatory in Thailand, with Thai men aged 21 and over subject to an annual lottery system where they draw a ‘red’ card, meaning two years of service, or a ‘black’ card, meaning an exemption. Alternatively, eligible draftees can request to volunteer to serve, in which case their service will be shortened.
Royal Thai Navy vice admiral Pokkrong Monthatphalin on Friday apologised to the conscripts and their families for the alleged abuse, claiming that the Navy has never had a policy of using violence as a means of punishing conscripts. But Thailand’s armed services have a chequered history when it comes to hazing rituals and the general abuse of cadets, recruits, and conscripts.
An infamous 2017 case saw a 19-year-old army recruit die of “sudden heart failure.” His body showed signs of severe physical abuse, and his family found many of his organs were missing when they collected the body.
While in March 2020, Amnesty International published the findings of an investigation into a widespread pattern of harassment, beatings, and sexual abuse against Thai military conscripts. Across 26 interviews with former and serving conscripted soldiers and commanders, including officers, investigators found that reports of sexual abuse and ritual humiliation were rampant.
Eight of those conscripts, trained in camps located across eight Thai provinces, claimed that they and dozens of others were forced by commanders to masturbate and ejaculate in public. Several other service members described being sexually attacked, or witnessing such attacks.
In the course of the investigation Amnesty International documented three cases of rape, one case of attempted rape, one of simulated rape, and two other cases in which conscripts were coerced into providing “sexual favours” to commanders.
“Abuses of new conscripts in the Thai military have long been an open secret. What our research shows is that such maltreatment is not the exception but the rule, and deliberately hushed within the military,” said Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research, Advocacy & Policy, at the time.
“Recruits described how sergeants and trainers brutally beat them with sticks and the butts of guns, sexually abused them and forced them to exercise until they fainted.”
“The full chain of command bears responsibility for this culture of violence and degradation. The Thai authorities must take immediate steps to stop these abusive and degrading practices… as well as launch a commission of inquiry to investigate these crimes.”
Follow Gavin Butler on Twitter.