Draftee Who Stepped on Landmine Denied Full Benefits

In a photo released by the army, Pvt. Patcharapong Halarp raises his thumbs for his rescuers after stepping on a landmine March 8 near the border with Cambodia.

BANGKOK — A young conscript who lost his right foot to a landmine earlier this month won’t receive full benefits for soldiers injured in the line of duty, an army spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Because Pvt. Patcharapong Halarp was drafted for compulsory service and not a career soldier, he won’t receive the customary promotions afforded to other army wounded, Sirichan Ngathong said.

“In order to receive the seven-rank advancement, one needs to be fully enlisted in the army,” Col. Sirichan said.

She said the 22-year-old private would still receive financial assistance for stepping on the landmine Friday near the Thai-Cambodian border while on patrol. The full benefit would have seen him promoted seven ranks from private to second lieutenant, which would mean a higher pay grade and pension.

It comes as various politicians are campaigning on promises to end mandatory conscription and improve the welfare of low-ranking servicemen.

She also rejected calls from some on social media for the army to automatically enroll Patcharapong in a military academy and grant him a career in the forces after his injuries.

“There are procedures for selection and examinations to enter the Army Non-Commissioned Officer School,” Col. Sirichan said. “They will also have to see whether an applicant’s physical body will be an obstacle to his military service.”

The army said Pvt. Patcharapong was on patrol in Ubon Ratchathani when he stepped on a landmine, which blew off his right foot. The mine is likely one of millions laid along the border during the Cold War. He remains hospitalized in the province.

A day after the blast, His Majesty the King sent a bouquet to Patcharapong with a message wishing him a speedy recovery. Many comments on social media urged the army to fully compensate Patcharapong and advance his career.

“Since he’s this brave, please just give him a rank and a job in the service,” user Theppitak Mutimanka wrote in reply to a news thread.

“The money that we lost to corruption should have been given to these brave soldiers,” Korawit Woraraj wrote. “Some of them came home from their missions without arms and legs.”

“That’s all there is. When time passes, everyone will forget him, while the generals get all the positions and fame,” Arthit Sukkhe wrote.

As an indicator of the public’s discontent with the armed forces, many political parties from the establishment Democrats to opposition Pheu Thai have pledged to end conscription, slash defense spending and improve the lives of servicemen if elected.

In response to the campaigns, which are proving wildly popular with the public, army commanders have countered that the draft is still necessary and accused politicians of taking shots at the armed forces to win votes.