Royal Thai Air Force training first five women pilot recruits


Equal opportunity for all genders took another step forward in Thailand last week when the Royal Thai Air Force announced it had chosen five women to train as pilots in non-combat roles, the first women to receive that opportunity in the Thai armed forces.

Of the five women recruits, two were civilians and three were already air force commissioned officers. The air force said they went through a rigorous selection process, and the civilians will undergo one month of military training before entering the pilot training program. The willingness by the air force to open its pilot ranks to qualified women is the result of both necessity and a forward outlook. Competition for pilots by the private sector, which usually offers more lucrative remuneration, has presented a human resource challenge to the air force.

Aside from personnel needs, the recruitment of women pilots reflects further progress on Thailand’s already strong record in the areas of gender equality and opportunities for women. Thailand ranks second in the Asia-Pacific region as far as the proportion of women in business leadership roles, at 37 percent, according to a global survey released in March by U.S.-based management consultant Grant Thornton. That puts the Kingdom well ahead of the global average of 24 percent.

“In Thailand, we’ve consistently held a leading position among the world’s best-performing nations when it comes to the occupation of senior business roles by women,”said Sumalee Chokdeeanant of Grant Thornton in Thailand. “A well-established culture of women receiving further education and advocacy of women in business has spurred change.”

Thai women have also played leadership roles in all of its major political parties and elected its first female prime minister in 2011.

While the military is often looked upon as a bastion of male-dominant hierarchy, a 2012 study by the Conflict Management Club of Thailand found that women officers in the Ministry of Defense were able to overcome gender barriers. “Working in the Thai military, the men could not suppress them or abuse them due to the law, social etiquette and military disciplines. Therefore, the participants did not feel uncomfortable and dissatisfied in the ministry,” the study said.

The research found that while Thai women soldiers said they might not rise as high as men in the military, they were accepting of that, and in general were satisfied with career stability, career benefits and overall organizational culture.

More broadly, Thailand ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1985 and its Optional Protocol in 2000, and endorsed the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

United Nations Women has written that, “Thailand has made significant efforts to integrate the international principles and instruments into the policy and programming framework, evident in the (2007) Constitution, which has anti sex discrimination and gender equality provisions.”

Photo courtesy of the Royal Thai Air Force