As university students stage weeks of high-profile campus protests for democracy, their younger brethren are advancing their own rebellion to Thailand’s establishment.
“There is a viral saying that ‘our first dictatorship is school,’” 17-year-old Peka Loetparisanyu said. “They are trying to instill in us that we are only the little people in an authoritarian society. This means that a lot of our rights have been violated.”
The movement sweeping through Thai high schools has been dubbed “bad student” by its leaders. Its namesake is a book written by university student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal about his experiences in high school titled A Bad Student in an Excellent Education System.
As well as supporting the broader aims of the anti-government protests, the high-school movement is targeted at gaining self-expression for students via the abolition of rules they deem as archiac.
Traditionalism runs through Thailand’s education system. The national anthem is played at morning assemblies, uniform and deportment rules are strict, and students are expected to be unquestioning of authority.
Critics say that the school system is aimed at compliance more than education. Global scores compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for 2018 show Thailand far behind top performer Singapore and also lagging neighboring Malaysia in reading, maths and science.
Still, conservatives were furious last month when some students wore white ribbons and raised three-finger Hunger Games salutes during the morning anthem recital to support the pro-democracy movement. The salute has been a symbol of calls for democracy since Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha first took power in a 2014 coup. The white ribbons represent the purity of the students.
Thai Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan earlier this year bowed to demands by students to relax the rules that prescribe specific hair length and styles for male and female students.
Nataphol said that more discussion was needed on calls to abolish uniforms and other major changes.
“I don’t think the students are my opponents,” he said. “I feel that by listening to them, I am giving them an opportunity to voice their concern safely.”
Fifteen-year-old Benjamaporn Nivas became one of the first faces of the “bad student” movement when she sat in public places with a sign around her neck inviting passersby to cut her hair as symbolic punishment for breaching the haircut rule.
She has now set her sights on further reform.
“They should revoke all the outdated rules, not just that one,” she said. “Those rules should not exist in the first place. They violate our human rights.”
Two-year-old Xu Haoyang (徐灝洋) has likely just months to live — but the only medicine that can help his rare genetic condition is not found anywhere in China and closed borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic mean that he cannot travel for treatment. Instead, his desperate father, Xu Wei (徐偉), has created a home laboratory to create a remedy for the boy himself. “I didn’t really have time to think about whether to do it or not. It had to be done,” the 30-year-old said from his DIY lab in an apartment building in southwestern Kunming. Haoyang has Menkes syndrome, a genetic disorder
WIDE REOPENING DISCOURAGED: A study from Peking University has suggested that lifting restrictions in the style of the US, UK and others would be catastrophic China would face a “colossal outbreak” on a scale beyond anything any other country has yet seen if it were to reopen in a similar manner to the US. That is a prediction based on statistical modeling by researchers at Beijing’s Peking University. A switch from China’s current COVID-19 elimination strategy to a US-style approach with few restrictions would lead to as many as 637,155 infections per day, according to the study, which was published by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday. That would be the largest daily figure reported by any country since the start of the
BURNING, LOOTING: The demonstrators called for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to step down over failure to deliver infrastructure, among other complaints Solomon Islands police yesterday fired tear gas in the capital, Honiara, as crowds of protesters set fire to buildings, including a police station, and looted shops in an eruption of anger at the government, Radio New Zealand (RNZ) reported. The protest was led by people from the Pacific nation’s largest island, Malaita Province, about 120km from the capital. They were demanding that Solomon Island Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare step down over failure to deliver promised infrastructure among other complaints, RNZ said. The protest began peacefully, but most schools and businesses in Honiara were closed by the afternoon as crowds tried to enter the
MOBS, TEAR GAS: Anti-government protests deteriorated and led to looting and arson, as the Pacific nation’s PM said he regretted a return to the country’s ‘dark days’ Rioters torched buildings in the Solomon Islands’ capital of Honiara yesterday, targeting the city’s Chinatown district in a second day of anti-government protests. Eyewitnesses and local media reported that crowds had defied a government lockdown to take to the streets. Live images showed several buildings engulfed in flames and plumes of thick black smoke billowing high above the capital. It followed widespread disorder on Wednesday, when demonstrators attempted to storm parliament and depose Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. Businesses operated by Honiara’s Chinese community were looted and burned, prompting Beijing’s embassy to express “serious concerns” to the Solomons’ government. The embassy “made representations