Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand will attend Thammasat University’s graduation ceremonies tonight and tomorrow evening. But there’s been a growing contingent of graduates who are boycotting the ceremony as a personal protest in relation to current rallies around Thailand about government and constitutional reform.
The night, the biggest night of a student’s schooling, is a special event for many Thai students when a member of the Royal Family frequently attend the ceremonies to confer the degrees in a parade of passing students.
The protests, that started back in July by a core of university students, openly mentioning the reform of the Thai Monarchy for the first time, have now morphed into a common thread of discussion in social media. The role of the Thai Monarch, in the past a taboo topic for polite conversation in Thailand, is now being subjected to frequent media coverage and discussion.
Usually a night to remember for many students, it’s not completely uncommon for graduating students to miss the commencement ceremony. The highly choreographed graduation ceremonies are voluntary although the chance to accept their certificate from a member of the Royal Family, including the photo that would take pride of place in homes around Thailand, is usually not passed up.
Now a rump of students, not only at Thammasat, are taking the opportunity for a significant personal protest, and deciding to forgo the ceremonies and make their own symbolic statement about the current protest issues. In most cases the events involve an entire day of rehearsals, culminating in mere seconds as they receive their rolled-up certificate in a regimented, solemn and formal ceremony. There can also be quite a lot of costs involved with the hiring of graduation garments with strict dress codes surpassing the wardrobes of many of the young students.
One post itemised the costs including up to 500 baht for a new skirt, a 1,000 baht for hair and grooming, including a hair cut and dyeing their hair back to black if they’d decided to go ‘colour’ during their studies, and a pair of shoes for up to 1,000 baht. Then there’s make-up fees, a photographer (some graduation photos can be ‘event’ in themselves), both adding another 6,000-10,000 baht to the costs.
Some protesters earlier this month announced on social media posts that they were missing their graduation describing it as a “superfluous and onerous event”. Although plenty of graduates have missed the ceremonies in the past for various reasons, now they’re posting about their boycott, complete with explanations calling for reforms for the role of Thailand’s Head of State.
Some graduates have also taken to social media explaining why they will be attending the graduation ceremonies, in most cases saying they will attend for the benefit of their parents.