I see them mentioned in the news all the time. I recently saw a news story about a territorial defense volunteer allegedly breaking a tourist’s nose with his gun. (See story here.)
But who are they? And what do they do?
– Charlie, Chalong
The man mentioned in that news story is a Territorial Defense Volunteer, or part of the Volunteer Defense Corps, known in Thai as the OrSor or Kong Asa Raksa Dindaen.
The OrSor is not an army or police volunteer unit. It is a paramilitary unit established under the Volunteer Corps Act 1954, set up by the government specifically to counter communist threats and attacks at the village level at the time.
The OrSor is supervised by the Department of Local Administration and reports directly to the Interior Minister at the national level. The Provincial Governor is the unit chief at the provincial level and District Chiefs chair the district-level units.
A Territorial Defense Volunteer’s main duty is to maintain the interior security of the nation at war time or from natural disaster. These volunteers are called on to assist police and officials in law-enforcement duties and render assistance to villagers in case they are under threat from disaster or a common armed force.
Do not confuse the OrSor with the Village Defense Volunteers (ChorRorBor) or the Village Protection Volunteers (OrRorBor), though these units basically serve the same functions and also report to the District Chief, Provincial Governor and the Interior Minister at the respective levels.
These organisations were all formed under the Ministry of Interior at different times, and any members of any of these three agencies can be empowered to carry firearms.
Also do not confuse any of the three above with the Civil Defense Volunteers, who some Thais still also call OrSor – as OrSor literally only means “volunteer”. This organisation was set up under the Civil Defense Act 1979, which has now been outdated by the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act 2007.
As you can guess by the name of the acts, the Civil Defense Volunteers assist the DDPM perform its duties. They can be empowered to carry firearms, though that would only be in a dire emergency.
All four organisations carry the name “Volunteer” as the people who serve them must have volunteered. None of them are regular Thai Armed Forces personnel, and hence none have been conscripted.
Territorial Defense Volunteers are recognised by whether they are full time, casual or part time, or on call.
Full-time volunteers undergo about five months of training, after which they are attached to a unit and receive a monthly salary of B9,000. Casual or part-time volunteers do not receive formal training and do not receive any income from the government.
On-call volunteers are all full-time volunteers. They are the support unit for the full-time units.
The basic qualifications for becoming a Territorial Defense Volunteers are:
• Thai national with at least lower secondary school education (Matthayom 3)
• 21-35 years old, and exempt from military service.
• In full health, with no disability and not a member of any religious clergy and not a member of the Red Cross organization.
• Good character references, no criminal history, no previous association with drugs or have a history of violent behaviour.
– Sayan Chanachaiwong, Kathu District Chief.