On Tuesday (28 Aug), a 24 year-old Thai National was found guilty of defaulting on his national service obligations even though he had barely lived in Singapore.
Ekawit Tangtrakarn was born in Thailand to a Thai father and Singaporean mother. He became a Singapore citizen by way of registration when he turned one.
When he was seven, his mother informed CMPB that her son wished to renounce his Singapore citizenship. However, she was told that he could only do so at the age of 21. Some years later, his mother again tried to apply for an exit permit for him.
However, she was unable to afford the S$75,000 bond that was required to secure the exit permit.
In between this time, he had 2 Singaporean passports – one valid between 1994 and 2004, and a second one valid between 2004 and 2006.
Even though he was a Singapore citizen, Ekawit lived mostly in Thailand and had even completed his three-year national service obligations with the Royal Thai Army.
He had lost his Singaporean citizenship in October 2015 after failing to take the Oath of Renunciation, Allegiance and Loyalty. After he lost his Singapore citizenship in October 2015, he was no longer liable for NS.
However, his charges centered around remaining outside Singapore without a valid exit permit from 17 Apr 2010 to 16 Oct 2015 while he was still a Singaporean citizen. This is thus a breach of the Enlistment Act.
He had pleaded guilty to this and a similar charge of being outside Singapore without a valid exit permit from Oct 2006 to Apr 2010 will be taken into consideration.
According to Ekawit's lawyer S Radakrishnan , he wanted to return to Singapore to resolve the matter as he did not want to be in hiding.
Radakrisnan added that “For all intents and purposes, he was born, lived, studied, served national service and found a job in Thailand, and identifies as a Thai national. He has spent his entire life to date residing in Thailand.”
“He never received any benefits from any social, economic, or educational services rendered by the Singapore government or its statutory boards.”
The case has drawn considerable flak from Netizens.
Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam said in a Facebook post: “We are really a messed up society. We should instead wish people well when they have built something good outside for themselves on their own. They cannot replicate the same here”.
Netizen Paul Boj said: “I don’t see how he is wrong? He never once was considered a Singaporean except by paper law. He even served army in Thailand and now u want him to serve army in Singapore?? Conflicting situation? Double agent? Just let him go lar. He was never a Singaporean nor any benefits was given to him”.
Another Phua Kelly said: “How about all those newly minted SG citizens? No need NS and no need reservist? The parents/mum should have just applied for his SG citizenship after age 21, then, no need NS at all. This is really not using common logic”.
Under the Enlistment Act, Ekawit faces up to three years' jail and a fine of up to S$10,000.