In an order to inculcate patriotism in kindergarten children, Thailand's army has started dressing them up in camouflage uniforms and putting them through military drills. The army is also giving them the training.
According to reports, on Wednesday (21 December), at least 180 children were seen participating in the "land defender battalion" programme run by the 1st Infantry Battalion of the 29 Army Regiment in Kanchanaburi Province. The children were doing push-ups, crawling under netting, saluting and eating from metal trays on the floor, photos taken during the training showed.
"Soldiers showed children military operations and taught them patriotic values to love the nation, religions, and the Thai monarchy through the controversial 12 Thai Values," Thai-language news outlet Matichon Online said.
It was said that the 12 Thai values were developed by General Prayut Chan-o-cha – prime minister of Thailand – who has been in the office since the 2014 coup that ousted the government.
"The military also instructed the children about King Bhumibol's sufficiency economy philosophy while showing them farming techniques," added Matichon.
However, the Thai junta, which plays a vital role in the country, was condemned for the training of children, who were probably to be four or five years old.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a critic of the junta who lives in self-imposed exile in Japan, said online, "Oh my God, this is the worst form of cultural revolution".
Another academic saw the kindergarten program as an extension of existing educational ideas and said, "As Thailand is under military rule, the practice of militarisation has conveniently developed to the extreme."
"The conservative elites view liberal democracy as a messy business ... they want an obedient citizen," Puangthong Pawakapan, from Chulalongkorn University's political science department, said.