Needless brawling deaths must stop
The flareup of inter-school violence in Bangkok last week has reignited many questions over this hot-button issue.
In the latest melee, a 20-year-old student from Rajamangala University of Technology Tawan-ok Uthentawai was brutally stabbed to death by another from arch-rival Pathumwan Institute of Technology in the heart of the city.
Why does such vocational school violence continue despite past and current government efforts to stamp it out as a national menace? What factors continue to drive students to get involved in violent, sometimes deadly clashes? Have authorities done enough to curb the problem?
Anucha Charoenpo is news editor, Bangkok Post.
And more importantly, what can police, teachers, parents, civil society and the Education Ministry do from now on to prevent future inter-school brawls from breaking out?
Inter-school violence reflects a serious problem in Thai society and our education system. Parents have lost their beloved children, while others have seen their kids become criminals, evening getting arrested for murder.
In the latest incident, the murdered Uthentawai student, Chanon Chuankhunthod, died almost instantly as he suffered bleeding from a wound that pierced the aorta in his abdomen.
The clash took place last Tuesday at a skywalk near the National Stadium BTS station during which Pathumwan Institute of Technology, located just a short walk away, was holding an 85th anniversary event.
CCTV footage showed students from the rival schools face off before beginning a mass brawl. It also captured the moment Chanon was stabbed to death, leading to the issuance of an arrest warrant for a fourth-year rival student from Pathumwan Institute of Technology's Faculty of Engineering, Sarawut Soprasit, the next day.
Mr Sarawut, the 25-year-old suspect, is still at large. Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathavorn must have felt a sense of urgency as he seemed unable to sit idly by, pledging the suspect would swiftly be brought to justice.
Last Friday, Pol Lt Gen Sanit led a team to meet officials at the two institutes to discuss measures to prevent a recurrence of future brawling. The attendees agreed that local police will ramp up street patrols around the two schools in an effort to increase public safety and intervene in a timely manner if and when fights break out.
A joint committee of the two schools will be set up to work on changing their students' hostile attitudes toward those attending rival schools. The panel will also come up with ways to help students not engage in inter-school brawls, as well as how to protect themselves and respond once such violence occurs.
Activities to promote positive relationships among students from both schools will be held soon. Students of both schools are recommended not wear their school uniform whenever they are off campus in a bid to prevent confrontations.
I do agree with such safety measures and hope they will help protect students who don't participate in such clashes.
As for police efforts to arrest the suspect in the latest incident, Pol Lt Gen Sanit asked the mother of Mr Sarawut about his whereabouts, hoping she could convince her son to turn himself in.
Mr Sarawut's mother said she cannot reach her son, but does not believe he will evade arrest.
The mother told the police that back in 2008, her son had been arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder when he was only 16.
He had already served his sentence on that charge, although she did not go into any further detail, saying only that she is very worried about him.
For decades, wayward students have waged tit-for-tat street battles against rival schools. They are usually armed with blunt weapons like clubs and stones. Many times, they also carry knives, pistols, pen guns and homemade ping pong bombs.
The common setting for scuffles are public transport, bus stops and shopping malls. According to the Education Ministry, 157 student fights were reported in Bangkok in 2014 in which 10 students were killed and 75 people injured.
The police reported that there were 639 student brawls in Bangkok in 2008, 2,619 fights in 2009 and 881 incidents in 2010.
I believe many students lost their lives while many more were injured during those times. Inter-school violence is now considered a social problem that all stakeholders in society need to help address and tackle with vigilance.
The Education Ministry, the police and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security should work harder to come up with proactive measures to prevent future student brawls to reduce loss of life.
If the problem persists, parents will not send their kids to vocational schools. With that, the Education Ministry will find it hard to further its plan to increase the number of students enrolled in vocational and technical schools to prepare the country for Thailand 4.0.
For Thailand to head toward a brighter future, Chanon's needless death should be the last of its kind.
Bangkok Post News Editor
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