Nalinrat Tuthubthim, 20, who claims she was sexually abused by a high school teacher, has her mouth covered with tape as pro-democracy protesters rally in Bangkok on Saturday. (Reuters photo)
A row over a woman who held up a sign alleging sexual abuse in schools has put a spotlight on harassment in the education system.
However, the woman has been accused of damaging Thailand's image.
"I hope my case will raise awareness for people in society, for students in schools, for adults who send children to schools, for teachers and for the Education Ministry," Nalinrat Tuthubthim, 20, told Reuters.
Ms Nalinrat, now a university student, had made allegations on social media of being sexually harassed at school several years ago.
But she grabbed attention at the weekend when she dressed in a high-school uniform at a protest in Bangkok, put black tape over her mouth and held up a placard that read: "I have been sexually abused by teachers. School is not a safe place."
Detractors criticised her for not being a real high-school student and she was bombarded with abusive messages. Some shared screengrabs of her Instagram account showing recent pictures in which she had modelled revealing outfits.
"When a non-student wears school uniform, when you draw this much attention from society and from social media, you need to take responsibility for it and what follows," said Pareena Kraikupt, a member of parliament for the Palang Pracharat Party of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Senator Somchai Sawangkarn condemned Ms Nalinrat for damaging the country's image and said she should be punished if an investigation of her accusations found them to be untrue.
Her supporters have argued that the message should not get lost in the questions over whether she chose the right form of protest.
"Successive governments have promised to make schools safe for children but little has been done in reality to end sexual harassment and other abuses," said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.
In a high-profile case in March, a teacher was put under investigation after students accused him of molesting students in exchange for better grades.
But student groups say the problem is far more widespread, both in school and beyond.
A YouGov poll in 2019 found that one in five Thais had experienced sexual harassment, with men almost as likely to face it as women. The most common form of sexual harassment was sexual assault — reported by 44% of those who had suffered harassment. Only 10% said they reported incidents to police.
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abuse : to use or treat someone or something wrongly or badly, especially in a way that is to your own advantage - ใช้ในทางที่ผิด
accused : to be said to have done something wrong or committed a crime - ถูกกล่าวหา
allegation : an accusation; a statement that someone has done something wrong or illegal even though this has not been proved - ข้อกล่าวหา
assault : attacking someone violently - การทำร้ายร่างกาย
awareness : knowing that something exists, or having knowledge or experience of a particular thing - การรับรู้, การทราบ, ความตระหนัก
bombard : to ask someone so many questions, give them so much information etc that it is difficult for them to deal with it all - ระดม (คำถาม ความคิด คำวิจารณ์) เข้าใส่
condemn : to criticise something or someone strongly - ประนาม
detractor : someone who criticises something or someone, often unfairly - ผู้กล่าวร้าย
harassment : annoying or worrying somebody by putting pressure on them or saying or doing unpleasant things to them - การข่มขู่, การรบกวน, การก่อกวน
image : an opinion that people have about someone or something - ภาพลักษณ์
molest (verb): to attack somebody sexually; to attack somebody physically - ลวนลาม, ปลุกปล้ำ
placard : a large written or printed notice that is put in a public place or carried in a march or protest - ป้ายประกาศ, แผ่นประกาศ
revealing (adj): (of clothes) allowing more of somebody’s body to be seen than usual -
society (noun): people in general, living together in communities - สังคม
successive : following immediately one after the other - ต่อเนื่องกัน, ตามลำดับ
widespread : happening or existing in many places, or affecting many people - อย่างแพร่หลาย