Thai activists warn that new hair guidelines will allow schools to be more strict

A Thai student activist group warns that Thailand’s new guidelines for schools will allow schools to be stricter on students. This news comes after Education Minister Treenuch Thienthong signed an order cancelling the ministry’s 2020 regulation on student hairstyles on January 16.

This week, Treenuch said she was preparing a guideline for schools on hairstyles. The draft guideline says that schools can set their own rules on hair, in line with their mission.

The activist group ‘Bad Student’ took to Twitter on Tuesday to blast the new draft guideline. In a long thread, the group said this policy could give schools the power to order students to have very short hair. It 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 symbolised love for the country.

In most Thai schools, teachers use forced haircuts as a punishment to discipline students. Thai schools’ haircut rules “officially” changed two years ago, outlawing haircuts as punishments. But a study conducted in May 2022 found that 74% of respondents said forced haircuts were still being used to discipline students.

Many have criticized Thai schools’ hair policies. In June 2022, Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt told a school director that student success depends on concentration and responsibility, and he didn’t believe that hairstyles had any effect on this.

Last year, the Thai office of the American beauty brand Dove launched a campaign called #LetHerGrow. The brand released an ad about the impact of forced haircuts on girls.

The video showed young girls having their haircuts all in the same short bob, and crying. It then showed older girls and women who all had their unique hairstyles and were confident. The ad sparked a debate in Thailand about whether forced haircuts are a violation of rights.

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

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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