Network threaten protest unless ‘undemocratic’ student regulations withdrawn
A network of university students has threatened to stage a protest if the Education Ministry doesn’t scrap its regulations governing student’s conducts.
The Cabinet on August 14 approved a revamping of the 2005 regulations on student conduct, including sections governing inappropriate display of affections, causing a nuisance to the public, and gathering in groups to cause disorder.
The student network views the new regulations as ambiguous, political and undemocratic.
The network, including students sitting on the student councils of Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universities and Puey Ungpakorn School, are demanding the regulations be scrapped and new ones drafted with student participation.
“We may organise a street protest if the ministry ignores or turn down our request. We need to have a say in the rules that govern us,” said Thanawat Wongchai, member of Chulalongkorn student council.
“The majority of students on social media and in the student councils across Thailand are opposed to the current regulations. Many will join us to fight on the street against these regulations,” he said.
The student network organised a meeting last Friday at the Faculty of Social Administration, Thammasat University and invited Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin, who sent representatives on his behalf. His representatives assured the network that the regulations had no political agenda.
“The regulations aim to help 7 million students complete a 12-year compulsory education. The regulations will help us take care of students at risk of dropping out, playing hooky, and engaging in brawls, sex and drugs – so we can report them to schools or parents,” said Suthin Kaewpana, assistant permanent secretary at the Education Ministry.
The Education Minister had previously vowed not to use the revamped regulations to achieve political ends.
However, Thanawat and his friends, including student activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, rejected the explanation.
“I think their argument doesn’t add up. I think the regulation banning public assembly aims to bar students from political rallies against the junta government,” said Thanawat. Before the revamp, the 2005 regulations prohibited skipping classes, gambling, theft, using weapons, brawling and prostitution, along with using addictive substances like alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. “The revamp was not necessary,” he said.
The Education Ministry’s regulation only legally covers those below 18 years of age. However, Decharut Sukkumnoed, a lecturer at Kasetsart University’s Faculty of Economics, said the revamped regulations would extend to those under 18 under the Child Protection Act, the revamped regulations would extend to those over 18. That Act requires students to comply with regulations set by their schools and the Education Ministry. It also sets penalties for encouraging students to violate the rules of up to a three-year jail term, a fine of up to Bt30,000 or both.
The Cabinet-approved regulations would take effect once published in the Royal Gazette.