Obese young men and ‘ladyboys’ dodge Thai military draft on conscription day
The law requires anyone who was born male to present themselves at recruitment centres after they turn 21. THAI "ladyboys" line up with hundreds of young men for a big weigh-in to decide who will be called up for military service. Transgender women who have completed surgical transition are exempt from conscription into the Army, along with men who are medically unfit. But the law requires anyone who was born male to present themselves at recruitment centres after they turn 21 to take part in a call-up lottery. It has become an annual tradition as some self-styled ladyboys put on glamorous dresses and makeup to celebrate their femininity as they line up with other would-be conscripts. With medical certificates in hand, they are allowed to keep their clothes on while the men remove their tops for a "fat check". The bizarre scenes are a ritual every April as Thai men over 21 must either choose to serve six months in the Army or enter a conscription lottery. Those who draw a black card can go home, but a red card means two years of service. Parents watch anxiously outside the registration centres as men draw lots, greeted by cheers and groans. 'NIGHTMARE HUMILIATION' Anti-junta political parties are calling for the end of conscription and the reduction of the military budget and vowed to reform the armed forces in the recent election. And campaigners have also criticised the treatment of transgender women. They are exempt from the lottery - but only if they can prove that they are not faking it. A doctor takes them to a private room, or behind a wall, to see if they have undergone sex change surgery and issues a certificate for “gender identity disorder”. Jetsada Taesombat of the Thai Transgender Alliance for Human Rights said the draft is a "nightmare". She said in 2017: “Most are stressed and worried that they will be undressed, stared at, or humiliated in public. “Some are so stressed out they want to commit suicide to avoid conscription.” The Army insists it treats trans people well, and has softened its description from the previous term “permanent mental disorder”. Lieutenant Colonel Ongard Jamdee, in charge of a recruitment centre in Bangkok, said: “The army is instructed to treat and respect transgender women as women.” Thailand is seen by some as a paradise for transgender women, who feature widely on television, in beauty pageants and at hair salons and cosmetics counters. But they cannot change the gender designation on their identity papers, despite a 2015 law against gender-based discrimination. Any some trans women say they face regular abuse including being chased out of women's toilets and being banned from hotels.