Thailand’s high school kids rally with political demands

Nov 14, 2020 by

Bad Students group raising education gripes into larger political arena

Prachatai English on Twitter: "15.00 Students are coming to the Ministry of  Education to join the protest "I know I'm bad" organized by the Bad Student  group. So far, around 200-300 students

BANGKOK — High school students, who have played a significant role in recent pro-democracy protests, are spearheading a demonstration on Saturday, Nov 14, organized by the Bad Students group, It kicks off at 1.30 p.m. outside the education ministry.

Laponpat Wangpaisit, the founder of Bad Students, told Nikkei Asia that the group is now fully aligned with older student groups. “We think that every problem can be solved if we can amend the big rule — the constitution.” He said. “That’s why we have escalated our demands.”

In recent months, protest leaders have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his cabinet, constitutional amendments and reform of the monarchy.

Bad Students was founded in June by a group of high-school students led by Laponpat, 18. Initially, it was a response to what they regarded as authoritarian teachers and unreasonable regulations. Laponpat, who is currently being homeschooled, established the group on social media as a discussion group for high school students aged 14 to 16.

Initial issues included longstanding gripes about uniforms, hair lengths and clean nails — all of which were checked by teachers each morning. Thai society has traditionally condoned strict disciplining of students, including corporal punishment.

Social media has enabled youngsters to share opinions widely, and also been a vehicle for exposing serious abuses, including gratuitous brutality.

Bad Students quickly attracted over 100,000 followers on Twitter and 34,000 members on Facebook, fanning the rebellion in Bangkok and the provinces.

On June 27, the teenagers held a protest at Siam Square, a trendy shopping and restaurant area that has long been a magnet for youngsters. On that occasion, the focus was educational reform. That continued on Sept. 5 when hundreds rallied outside the education ministry, wearing white ribbons and snapping three-finger salutes and calling for the resignation of Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan.

“It’s time to not just criticize the education system,” Benjamaporn Nivas,16, a Bad Students’ leader, told Nikkei. “We can criticize everything.” From a Thai-Chinese family, Benjamaporn said she feels particularly oppressed by a male-dominated society. “That raised questions in my mind and pushed me to fight against unfair rules.”

Thayanee Jaroenkool,16, expressed similar sentiments. A student at the prestigious Triam Udom Suksa School, she was particularly incensed by hair regulations. “It is unacceptable,” she told Nikkei. “The hair grows on my head, so my hairstyle should be up to me.”

But things have gone well beyond hairstyles. “Now we think that just ousting the education minister is not the right solution,” she said. “The right solution is to reform everything.”

Source: Thailand’s high school kids rally with political demands – Nikkei Asia

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