Authorities investigate mass haircut punishment at northern Thailand school

Screen grab of mass haircut punishment.

Thai authorities are investigating after a video surfaced on social media showing a school teacher in the northern Phetchabun province cutting the hair of over 100 students on Tuesday as punishment for violating haircut rules. Education Minister Trinuch Thienthong ordered state agencies to investigate the school director and teacher involved in the incident.

Trinuch said the behaviour of the teacher was inappropriate, especially since the ministry had lifted hairstyle regulations for both boys and girls in 2020, Bangkok Post reported. The ministry is now in the process of drafting a new hairstyle policy that will allow students to wear their hair long or short and will give schools the freedom to implement their own measures.

However, cutting students’ hair as a punishment goes against the guidelines for student discipline set forth by the ministry in 2005. These guidelines include punishments ranging from warnings and probation to demerit points and participating in corrective activities.

Trinuch has instructed the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) to investigate the school director and teacher and if their actions are found to be incorrect, they will face disciplinary action, she said.

The video was first posted by the activist group Bad Student, which promotes student rights, on their Facebook and Twitter pages, using the hashtag #BWITfacts. It has since spread across the Internet. The video sparked a heated response from netizens, with many calling for the revocation of the teacher’s license and for the school to focus on education instead of student hairstyles.

Although Thailand’s Ministry of Education lifted school hairstyle regulations in 2020, schools still have some freedom to enforce their own measures.

In most Thai schools, teachers still use forced haircuts as a punishment to discipline students. A study conducted in May 2022 found that 74% of respondents said forced haircuts were still being used to discipline students.

There have been several incidents in Thailand of forced haircuts in school sparking outrage.

Last year, a secondary school student from Nakhon Ratchasima province, northeast Thailand, secretly filmed a teacher cutting bald patches into the hair of 10 male students and posted the video on social media. Netizens criticized the teacher’s actions as inappropriate and a violation of children’s rights.

The director of Suranee Wittaya 2 school in Mueang district said the teacher apologised to the 10 students and was given a “warning” not to do it again.

Last month, Bad Student tweeted a warning that Trinuch’s new draft guidelines, which say that schools can set their own rules for hair, will allow schools to be stricter on students. In a long tweet thread, the activist group said this policy could give schools the power to order students to have very short hair. Bad Student said…

“Sooner or later, we will see the power-hungry school principal order students to have super short hair and if the school already has this rule they will make it more strict.”

Thai schools’ hairstyle rules, as well as their strict dress codes, have origins in the country’s military history, and originally symbolized love for the country.

Time will tell what further developments unfold around the new hair guidelines.

Crime NewsNorthern Thailand News

Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.

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