Volunteer Defence Corps (Or Sor) (Thailand)

Country: Thailand
Details of Formation: The PGM was established in 1954 under the Ministry of Interior.
Details of Termination: PGM is still active in 2014.
Purpose: The group was established to support the state military and protect the local population from insurgents in border areas. This function was later expanded to include urban areas, where the group was supposed to counter insurgents. Another function is the protection of interior ministry officials and infrastructure in the South. One source reports that the PGM was used in the 2003 “war on drugs”.
Organisation: The group was subordinated to the Ministry of Interior (Department of Provincial Administration). On the district level, the command lies with the civilian district officer and an army lieutenant colonel serves as deputy.
Weapons and Training: According to news sources, training was provided by the Border Patrol Police and consisted of 45 days of basic military training. However, it was considered inferior to the training of regular soldiers. Reports state that the group was armed with different types of assault rifles and small arms and light weapons.
Size: As a consequence of the formation of another paramilitary unit (Thahan Phran), the group’s size decreased from 52,000 in 1980 to 33,000 in the late 1980s. In the South, between 2002 and 2004 the group reportedly tripled in size due to an increase in violence and had 2,187 members as a result. The latest source states that the PGM had 8,000 members in 2008.
Reason for Membership: Members are reported to be involved in their own criminal activities, which may act as an incentive to join. News sources highlight loyalty to ministry officials as a characteristic of the group’s members, which could be another motivation to become a member.
Treatment of Civilians: Sources state that the group was involved in extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses. Moreover, it has been reported that it had some role in the early stage of two massacres in 2004. The group was not able to protect civilians effectively and has been suspected of killings on behalf of interior ministry officials.
Other Information: The Volunteer Defence Force, which is closely connected to the Ministry of Interior, is part of the government militia system. The PGM is also called Or Sor or just volunteers. It is one of the three main militias (Volunteers Defence Corps, Village Defence Volunteers, Village Protection Volunteers) that operate in the south of Thailand and are similar in their function and structure. According to a source, it is the largest of the three and corrupt politicians established it for the personal purpose of conducting criminal activities. The group is characterised by strong loyalty to its political leaders and is seen as an agent of the district officers.
References: Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD.

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