Military Ranks in Thailand Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 in Beginner, History, Intermediate, Thailand Politics

Ever since the Thai military overthrew the monarchy in 1932, there has been a coup on average every 4 years since. They typically install their own government and constitution after each coup. The last one was in 2006, and there are always rumors of more to come. The thousands of generals in the Thai military play a huge role in government, albeit unofficially and in the background. But that’s another story . . .

Point is, if you’re interested in following the soap opera of Thai politics, you’ll often see someone of rank make press statements and such. This post will help you figure out how important the person talking really is.

There are four branches: Army, Navy, Airforce, and Police.
ทหาร ta4 haan5 – soldier
ทหารบก ta4 haan5 bok2 – Army
ทหารเรือ ta4 haan5 reua1- Navy (soldier boat)
ทหารอากาศ ta4 haan5 ah1 gaat2 – Airforce (soldier air)
ตำรวจ dtum1 ruat2 – Police

The ranking systems of each branch are generally the same, but with minor changes in rank names, rank abbreviations, and rank insignia on the uniform. The ranking system mostly matches that of western militaries, too. That said, it’s no easy task to memorize any of it. But I do recommend taking a quick glance here.

I’m just going to go over the very basics, with the very most need to know information. I’ll also give a few tips to make memorization easier, if you’re the bit too dedicated type . . .

ชั้น, ยศ chan4, yot4 – rank

The three levels you’ll often see in both university and military ranking are below, with 1 being the highest:
ตรี dtree1 – 3
โท to1 – 2
เอก eak1 – 1
Keep in mind that ตรี is also used for bachelors, โท for masters, and เอก for PhD students. The word ตรี almost sounds like ‘three’, and โท almost sounds like ‘two’ (not a coincidence!).

I won’t go into too much detail, but if you look at the Wikipedia list, you’ll notice that each military branch is divided up into three sections: the lowly soldiers, mid-level officers, and high-ranking officers.

Tricks to remember the abbreviations and the ranks:
The abbreviation and rank for both the Army and Police are almost exactly the same, except ต. is added in the abbreviation to signify it’s Police (ต for ตำรวจ). The abbreviations for both the Airforce and Navy are nearly the same, but the full pronunciations are different. In the Navy ranks, you’ll often see เรือ, นาวา, and นาวี – all three simply mean ‘boat’.

You also do not need to memorize the rank of Field Marshall, as it no longer exists. The power of Field Marshall is now held only by the King of Thailand.

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