Photos show the children — likely to be four or five years old — doing push-ups, crawling under netting, saluting and eating from metal trays on the floor.
“Soldiers showed children military operations and taught them patriotic values to love the nation, religions, and the Thai monarchy through the controversial 12 Thai Values,” reported Thai-language news outlet Matichon Online.
The so-called 12 traditional Thai values were created by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who has been Prime Minister of Thailand since the 2014 coup that ousted the government.”The military also instructed the children about King Bhumibol’s sufficiency economy philosophy while showing them farming techniques,” reported Matichon.
The military plays a strong role in Thailand, with a lottery-based conscription for young men and a popular cadet program for high school aged students.
But the militarisation of kindergarten attracted some criticism online.
“Oh my God, this is the worst form of cultural revolution,” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a critic of the junta who lives in self-imposed exile in Japan.
Another academic saw the kindergarten program as an extension of existing educational ideas, in which students are taught to do as they are told and “critical thinking” is discouraged.
“As Thailand is under military rule, the practice of militarisation has conveniently developed to the extreme,” said Puangthong Pawakapan, from Chulalongkorn University’s political science department.
“The conservative elites view liberal democracy as a messy business … they want an obedient citizen.”
Matichon Online reported that this is the second time that the Royal Thai Army has run the program, adding that many more schools and kindergartens will join the program in the future.