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Not bowing to tradition – School group demands end of prostration

Jack Burton

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Not bowing to tradition – School group demands end of prostration | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Khaosod English
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More than 1,000 members of Bangkok’s Bodindecha School community have signed a petition asking the principal to abolish mandatory prostration – the act of submissively kneeling or grovelling as a sign of respect. On July 2, the Bodin Democracy group launched a campaign to demand an end to the practice by encouraging netizens who agree with the cause to use the hashtag #AbolishProstration (#ยกเลิกหมอบกราบ) until it trended on Twitter.

Thailand’s King Chulalongkorn abolished the tradition of prostration back in 1873 but the custom has crept back into fashion during the time of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Prostration is the placement of the body in a reverentially or submissively prone position as a gesture. Typically prostration is distinguished from the lesser acts of bowing or kneeling by involving a part of the body above the knee touching the ground, especially the hands – Wikipedia

On July 4, the group wrote a petition to the school’s principal calling for prostration to be replaced with the ‘wai’ (the traditional Thai greeting with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion) as the way to show respect. 1,276 people, including current and former students, signed the petition.

According to the petition, students at the school are forced to prostrate themselves as a way to show respect to others. The group views it as a way for teachers to oppress students; some teachers even said they would not allow students to look up until they were satisfied.

The petition gives 6 reasons for the change…

  • Due to Covid-19, it is not safe to prostrate oneself as it requires direct physical contact with the ground, which is a source of germs and dust
  • Due to limited space, prostration is not convenient for students, especially girls with skirts
  • There are other ways of showing respect besides prostration without oppressing students
  • The act of prostration dehumanises students
  • It is not a long-practiced tradition of the school as claimed, but was adopted in 2013
  • King Chulalongkorn abolished the tradition of prostration in 1873

The group says they are not against acts of showing respect, but rather against acts of dehumanisation. Students at Bodindecha (Sing Singhaseni) 2 School and Satri Rachinuthit School are signing similar petitions. Prostration has been a gesture of respect and hierarchy in Thai society for many years. It can still be seen in religious, family, and monarchy-related activities.

SOURCE: Prachatai

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Scuzz

    July 10, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    A sign of respect is not a sign of respect if it’s forced. Have these people no clue? Head bowed, seething hatred.

  2. Avatar

    Glenn

    July 10, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    hmm, trying to move from the 19th century into the 20th. good for them.

  3. Avatar

    Bubba Lee

    July 10, 2020 at 11:25 pm

    Respect is also due to the students from their teachers. Forcing students to prostrate themselves is not a sign of respect, but simply a method of instilling subjugation through humiliation. This is frequently done during military training, but these children are not in the military. The traditional “wai” is an adequate replacement and even that can be equated with a form of salute.

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