Thahan Prahan (Royal Thai Rangers)
The Thahan Phrahan (Hunter Soldiers or Rangers) were originally formed in 1978 to clear Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) guerrillas from mountain strongholds in Thailand's northeast. Some of its initial recruits were convicted criminals whose sentences were remitted; others joined to obtain parcels of land granted as a reward for successful campaigns. They are a paramilitary light infantry force led by regular officers and NCOs, with other ranks comprised of full-time and part-time personnel. Roughly one-third of these regional-level troops are given more advanced training to become an army-level force. The RTA's paramilitary Thahan Prahan, one of the front-line guards of Thailand's often ill-defined and porous borders, completed a major reorganization and downsizing in late 2001. The reorganization was due to changes in the threats on Thailand's eastern and western borders as well as RTA budget cuts. The total strength is believed to be about 11,000, around half the number reached a decade ago The Thahan Phrahan headquarters at Pak Thong Chai, some 30 km south, southwest of Korat, was closed and command transferred to the army's four regional headquarters. On the western frontier, where there is sporadic fighting, they work closely with the RTA and the Border Patrol Police. On the eastern border, (facing Laos and Cambodia), the Rangers now have primary responsibility for border surveillance and protection. Many Rangers have been killed or wounded in recent years during cross-border attacks by Myanmar Army troops, or their allied United Wa State Army and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army troops. In February 2001, a 19-man Ranger base designated Unit 9631, and situated at Ban Pang Noon near Mae Sai on the Myanmar border, was captured by 500 Myanmar troops. The Rangers now have 13 regimental headquarters, 107 companies and 12 women's squads, each with 46, 90 and 11 personnel respectively. Five regiments, with 37 companies, are now responsible for guarding the border with Myanmar - the 31st, 32nd, 35th and 36th Regiments in the northwest, and the 14th Regiment in Kanchanaburi. In a major victory for Thailand and the Rangers, in October 1981, a Ranger squad from Pak Tong Chai was used to force the drug warlord Khun Sa to move his headquarters from northwest Thailand across the border into Myanmar. However, the Rangers have had a troubled history, with units often accused of atrocities, abuses of authority and involvement in the drug trade. It has also been reported in the past, these units included a large majority of local thugs who often made use of their Thahan Prahan status to continue to commit crimes against their fellow citizens.
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