Thai national returns and pleads guilty to defaulting on NS

Young males aged between 13 and 16½ years old have to apply for an exit permit if he intends to travel or remain outside Singapore for three months or longer.
Young males aged between 13 and 16½ years old have to apply for an exit permit if he intends to travel or remain outside Singapore for three months or longer.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

A Thai national, who was registered as a Singaporean when he was one year old but lived his whole life in Thailand, admitted in a district court yesterday that he had defaulted on his national service obligations in Singapore.

Application engineer Ekawit Tangtrakarn, 24, completed his three-year national service obligations with the Royal Thai Army instead and ceased to be a Singaporean on his 22nd birthday.

He pleaded guilty to an offence under Singapore's Enlistment Act after he remained outside Singapore without a valid exit permit for 51/2 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 was the first case in which a defaulter had returned to Singapore to answer for his offence after he was no longer eligible to serve NS, now that he was 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.

The DPP also said that, according to the Ministry of Defence, this was the first case in which a defaulter had returned to Singapore to answer for his offence after he was no longer eligible to serve NS, now that he was neither a Singaporean nor a permanent resident.

Madam Lim later discussed her son's NS obligations with Singapore's Central Manpower Base (CMPB).

On Aug 7, 2006, she sent CMPB an e-mail, requesting NS deferment for her son until he turned 21. In October that year, CMPB mailed a letter to her Bangkok address, telling her that it was unable to grant her request.

A year later, CMPB sent her another letter stating that a Singaporean male aged between 13 and 161/2 years 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 her after this and in November 2014, it e-mailed her to say 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 within 12 months of turning 21. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, minors who are Singapore citizens by descent/registration must take the oath within 12 months of reaching 21 years to remain as Singapore citizens.

Ekawit obtained his degree from 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 in jail, DPP Mansoor said: "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 is concerned, he knew only one citizenship - the Thai citizenship." Ekawit is expected to be sentenced on Sept 18.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2018, with the headline 'Thai national returns and pleads guilty to defaulting on NS'. Subscribe