Hundreds of students, upset and stating that they are unable to express themselves politically at school, among other concerns, protested at the Ministry of Education in Bangkok this afternoon.
The large, peaceful crowd, shooting a three finger symbol of defiance and tying white ribbons around the Ministry were calling for the Ministry of Education to listen to their concerns. A majority of the students present belonged to the #Badstudent movement. Many students also blew whistles, a criticism at the Minister of Education for participating in Anti-Democracy protests in 2014 which were known in some circles as the “whistle mob”. Some of the students concerns include allegations of teachers reprimanding them for expressing their opinion politically, inability to have free inquiry, concerns on the dress codes, reports of physical abuse by teachers and inability to provide critical feedback. Students were not the only ones present as many adults, showing solidarity with the students, also attended.
The Education Minister, Nataphol Teepsuwan, of whom many of the protesters were calling for his resignation, stating he was not supporting their views and opinions, came directly out to the crowd and sat on the ground with a group of the students for about thirty minutes, engaging them in open dialogue and discussion. Some protesters continued to blow whistles and were not interested in engaging with him, although some did. The Minister originally asked the students to come into the compound and sit on the grass lawn with him but the students refused, forcing the Minister to come outside the building to speak with them instead. The Minister was, it is noted, forced to sit in the very back row of the crowd and many rebuffed him.
Of note, the Education Minister stated that he would address student’s complaints on strict hair cut regulations immediately, although other complaints would take time. The Minister also symbolically tied one of the white protest ribbons to himself and said he stood with the students and supported their right to free speech but that it must be done lawfully and not break constitutional laws.
The Education Minister also said he would be looking into setting up a channel for students to directly give their feedback/concerns and would look into creating space at schools for freedom of expression. He also reassured students that, according to him, they would not face threats or harassment merely for peacefully expressing their opinion.
Editor’s Note: We have decided not to post photos of the students to protect their anonymity and as many are juveniles, so have only posted a photo of the Minister of Education looking to speak with students. Photo was taken by Thaienquirer.