Dress code a non-issue

Dress code a non-issue

The matter of what to wear and what not to wear in parliament brought to the fore by Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MPs this week reflects their inability to get their priorities right on what to debate and what not to debate in the Lower House.

Despite the countless social, legal, economic and other crucial issues and problems that matter far more to the people, PPRP lawmakers Parina Kraikup and Attakorn Sirilattayakorn have decided to criticise the clothing choices of certain Future Forward Party (FFP) MPs, which they described as "inappropriate and disrespectful to the place and the people", for debate in parliament.

It is not as if the FFP parliamentarians were really inappropriately attired in slippers or sandals, jeans or T-shirts. Their clothing choices were smart enough for general business functions. A group of female MPs also donned traditional northern outfits wearing long wraparound skirts, or pha sin, and long-sleeved blouses. However, Ms Parina also criticised them for turning parliament into a catwalk.

Then Mr Attakorn picked on his male counterparts from the FFP camp for not wearing a tie or wearing a polo-shirt instead of a shirt, even though they had jackets on.

When the issue was debated in the chamber, House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, who has the final say on the dress code, seemed perplexed about why the matter had gained such importance. Even though the parliamentary dress code does stipulate international businesslike attire as the standard, the rule does not have to be strictly imposed and clothing that promotes local culture should be a good thing, he said.

Despite his comment, a house subcommittee has been set up to discuss the non-issue.

Parliamentarians should instead have dedicated their time and energy to matters that affect the people. And parliament should be a place that embraces change and differences. If diversity of clothing cannot be accepted in parliament, it will be very hard for lawmakers to promote cultural and social plurality and deal with any associated issues.

The Thai parliament has adopted the dress code of the West without taking into account the country's humid, hot weather and its traditional clothes. For men, wearing a jacket and tie means the need for cooler air-conditioning at work. For women, wearing a business jacket, as their male counterparts do, robs them of their freedom to choose more stylish outfits.

Even the British parliament, which is a hotbed of rules and traditions, has embraced changes to its dress code. The House of Commons, for instance, made a decision in 2017 to allow men not to wear a tie when attending debates.

The dress code brouhaha in the Thai parliament mirrors how the country's development in key areas, such as education and bureaucracy, have been bogged down by superficial matters, such as rituals and ceremonies.

If there are to be parliamentary debates on the dress code, they should instead focus on the need to remove or relax the clothing rules at schools and other institutions.

For parliamentarians, they should move on from the dress code saga. Those who want to wear full business attire should do so without expecting others to copy them. What would really matter is if all lawmakers were forced to dress uniformly in full businesslike attire but did not tackle the real matters of state. This appears to be what the PPRP MPs are clamouring for.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : ploenpotea@bangkokpost.co.th

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