Transgender wins lecturer job at Thammasat

Transgender wins lecturer job at Thammasat

University opts not to appeal court's ruling

Two and a half years after filing a discrimination case against the school at the Administrative Court (above) Thammasat University throws in the towel and re-offered Kath Khangpiboon a job as lecturer. (File photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
Two and a half years after filing a discrimination case against the school at the Administrative Court (above) Thammasat University throws in the towel and re-offered Kath Khangpiboon a job as lecturer. (File photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

Thammasat University is giving transgender Kathawut Khangpiboon a lecturer job after losing a judgement in the Central Administrative Court and deciding Monday not to appeal the court ruling.

Vice rectors, Prinya Thaewanarumitkul and Pairojana Kampusiri, held a press conference, with Ms Kathawut also present, to announce the university's decision not to appeal the court's order on March 8 that the university recruit Ms Kathawut as a lecturer in the Faculty of Social Administration within 60 days.

By design or coincidence, Thammasat abandoned its attempt to blackball Ms Kathawut just hours after an InquiryLines feature in the Bangkok Post highlighted the case and emphasised her charges of discrimination and other allegations of illiberal behaviour at the university.

Ms Kathawut took the university and its executive board to court after she was denied a placement as a lecturer with the faculty despite having passed the qualification screening in March 2015.

However, the court ruled on March 8 that the rejection was not based on the plaintiff's sexual orientation but on the messages she posted on her Facebook and Instagram pages attacking the university's lecturer admission process.

The court insisted social media provides a communication channel through which Ms Kathawut as an individual has the right to express opinions, as guaranteed by the constitution. However, the person must be legally accountable for the opinions under the law.

The court acknowledged the university board did not reject Ms Kathawut on the basis of her sexuality. The court found the messages may have contained impolite language. However, the apparent severity of the language did not give the university enough reason to deem her being in "deficit" in her moral conduct.

On Monday, Mr Prinya told the press conference that in light of the court ruling, the university executive board has resolved to rescind its earlier decision not to hire Ms Kathawut as a lecturer. The board respects the court's decision on the matter.

The board also decided not to appeal the court ruling. The university will need to create a teaching position for Ms Kathawut as the placement she applied for at the time of the dispute has already been offered to someone else.

However, Mr Prinya said there would be no problem with Ms Kathawut's employment.

Ms Kathawut, aka Kath, said she was glad to finally receive justice. She expects to start work in around two months and also plans to continue working on gender issues.

Meanwhile, Kowit Phuangngam, dean of the Faculty of Social Administration, said the faculty was familiar with Ms Kathawut and he was confident she would not encounter problems teaching there.

The dean said Ms Kathawut would probably be based at the university's campus in Lampang where she sat for the teaching position exam and won the placement.

Ms Kathawut said she intended to do her best in her new job. She would not sue the university for damages for denying her placement as she considered the issue resolved. She pledged to be more careful with her social media posts.

Ms Kathawut reportedly once posted on Instagram a picture of a penis-shaped pink lipstick.

During the course of her dispute with the university, she refused to accept Thammasat rector Somkid Lertpaitoon's explanation that the university disqualified her because of her "profane act", her inappropriate behaviour and use of social media.

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