PM should learn to mind his manners
It was music to my ears when I heard Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday tell a group of nearly 800 students, who gathered to hear him speak ahead of the Children's Day, what future generations should do and how they should think.
Gen Prayut emphasised many important points. He said the young generation should not simply believe what they hear but make their own assessment before making a choice. He also asked them not to oppose everything that comes their way but to look at all the facts and feel informed before deciding on what stance to take.
During his talk, Gen Prayut mentioned that the Thai education system was too focused on cramming, and advised that the system should be changed to foster critical thinking.
I would have to admit that Gen Prayut, for a change, uttered some wise words, but alas the same message doesn't appear to have been directed to the Ministry of Education, which gets the lion's share of the annual budget.
Umesh Pandey is Editor, Bangkok Post.
Over the years, there have been calls for a revamp of Thailand's education system to encourage students to think more critically. But the calls have been falling on deaf ears.
The premier also called on the Ministry of Education to revise school textbooks to reflect 21st century innovations and his government's "Thailand 4.0" development goal.
He also suggested that one of the easiest ways to improve education was to add knowledge taught in cram schools to textbooks.
The prime minister's calls should be heeded as Thailand's current education system rather teaches students to be subdued and to only go by the books. And to match the needs of Thailand 4.0, the country's education system needs a change beyond knowledge from tutorial schools. An education revamp is all the more urgent as many of our neighbours power ahead and overtake us economically.
Apart from this, what disappointed me more was the way a child was mocking Gen Prayut. During the same meeting, a 12th grader from Nakhon Si Thammarat staged a puppet show in which she reflected the prime minister as a puppet.
During her performance, she spoke of what she wanted from television channels on the weekends, which was more cartoons. She said Gen Prayut's long speeches cut into her TV time and spoiled her mornings.
I was disappointed with the girl, not for the fact she was complaining about the TV programming not being to her liking, but that she managed to mimic the prime minister and his abrasive language.
Think about it, this child will one day grow up and become an adult. It is worrying if she or other children end up not just mimicking the premier's personality but adopting it as their own character, thinking he is an adult worth looking up to and imitating.
Our prime minister said he is a father of two. I guess he must know how to raise children.
I don't know whether his children are influenced by his personality. But my only hope is that Thai children do not adopt his abrasive manner.
As head of the government and the national leader, Gen Prayut should try to be more composed and measured when communicating.
The fact that the 12th-grade student, and probably many other children, are copying his rough way of speaking is not a good sign.
It is not that I am saying this because I am an adult.
During my years in high school, I always admired politicians who knew how to get their message across smoothly, without ruffling the feathers of others.
Many smooth talkers were elected to public offices and came to power. Other smooth-talking figures seized power by staging a military coup, similar to what Gen Prayut did. But they all knew the general etiquette of how best to portray the public image of a leader. And as the idiom goes, "respect begets respect".
What Gen Prayut needs to do is to try to use the remaining time he has in office to portray a better public image. It would be sad to see the prime minister leave and be known only for his uncouth manner. And it would be even sadder if our young generation believes such manners are acceptable.
Bangkok Post Editor
Umesh Pandey is Editor, Bangkok Post.