SINGAPORE - A Thai national, who was registered as a Singaporean when he was a year old but lived his whole life in Thailand, admitted in a district court on Tuesday (Aug 28) that he had defaulted on his national service obligations in Singapore.
Application engineer Ekawit Tangtrakarn, 24, had completed three years of national service with the Royal Thai Army, and also ceased being a Singaporean on his 22nd birthday.
He pleaded guilty to an offence under the Enlistment Act after he remained outside Singapore without a valid exit permit for 5½ years.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Mansoor Amir told the court that Ekawit had surrendered voluntarily and that one of the reasons for his return was to avoid any trouble should he need to travel to Singapore in the future for work.
The DPP also said that according to the Ministry of Defence, this is the first case in which a defaulter returned to Singapore to answer to his offences after he is no longer eligible to serve NS, as he is neither a Singaporean nor a permanent resident.
Ekawit's Singaporean mother, Madam Genevieve Lim, gave birth to him in Thailand in 1993 and he was registered as a Singapore citizen a year later. He has a Thai father.
Madam Lim later had discussions with Singapore's Central Manpower Base (CMPB) on her son's NS obligations.
On Aug 7, 2006, she sent it an e-mail, asking for her son to be deferred from NS until he turned 21. In October that year, CMPB mailed Madam Lim a letter to her Bangkok address, telling her that it was unable to grant her request.
A year later, it sent her another letter stating that a young male aged between 13 and 16½ years old has to apply for an exit permit if he intends to travel or remain outside Singapore for three months or longer.
If he intends to remain outside Singapore for two years or longer, his parents would also need to furnish a bond in the form of a bank guarantee for a minimum sum of $75,000 or 50 per cent of their combined annual gross income for the preceding year - whichever is higher.
Madam Lim replied on Oct 22, 2007 that she did not have enough money to put up the bond. CMPB continued communicating with Madam Lim after this and in November 2014, it sent her an e-mail informing her that her son had committed offences under the Enlistment Act.
Ekawit ceased to be a Singapore citizen on Oct 17, 2015, as he had failed to take the Oath of Renunciation, Allegiance and Loyalty (Oral) within 12 months after he turned 21.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, minors who are Singapore citizens by descent/registration must take the Oral within 12 months on reaching age 21 years to remain as Singapore citizens.
Ekawit obtained his degree in Bangkok's Thammasat University in May 2016 before returning to Singapore two months later.
Urging the court to sentence him to at least nine weeks' jail, DPP Mansoor said: "When a person refuses to serve NS at the time that he is required to... his actions strike at the very core of the principles of national security, universality and equity."
Defence lawyer S. Radakrishnan, who pleaded for a fine, said: "As far as our client was concerned, he knew only one citizenship - the Thai citizenship."
Ekawit is expected to be sentenced on Sept 18.