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Education minister says free speech should be allowed at Thai schools

Caitlin Ashworth

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PHOTO: Khaosod

“The students are concerned about their future which is a good thing.”

Hundreds of self-called “bad students” gathered in front of the Ministry of Education in Bangkok voicing concerns over free speech after they were reprimanded earlier this week for expressing their political beliefs during a morning flag ceremony.

The students raised their hands in a 3 finger salute during the morning flag raising ceremony and wore white ribbons to symbolise pro-democracy. The roughly 500 student activists crowded at the government building and also demanded the public school system abolish strict haircut rules and mandatory morning flag ceremonies.

An 18 year old student and leader of the “Bad Students” group says the education minister should resign if he can’t meet their demands. Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan sat in the crowd to listen to what the students had to say. Some students blew whistles at him, mocking his involvement as a leader in the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, an anti-democracy group known for “whistle mob” protests in 2014.

Teepsuwan tied a white ribbon to his wrist to show his support for free speech. He says the students should be allowed to express their political beliefs at school, but protests should be done lawfully. He says he plans for schools across the country to hold student councils for open discussions on political beliefs.

Some students reported harassment from teachers and administrators after Monday’s flag ceremony protests. Police were called in by some administrators and officers confiscated white ribbons from some students. Student activists say the ministry has done nothing to condemn the harassment they faced, but Teepsuwan says in the future, there should be no problems as long as the students are protesting peacefully.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Pattaya News

 

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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