As many as 92% of schoolchildren in Thailand have been subjected to physical or psychological abuse by their peers, while 13% are medically depressed from bullying, a recent survey conducted by the Network of Legal Advocates for Children and Youth showed.
The survey, involving more than 1,000 students from 15 schools nationwide aged between 10 and 15, found that 92% reported being bullied by their peers at least once. Of them, 35% said they had been bullied at least twice a semester, while 25% said they underwent bullying at least three or four times a week.
The methods of bullying ranged from physical, verbal and cyber abuse, with 62% saying they had been hit in the head by their peers, 43% said bullies made fun of their parents' names, and 42% were humiliated by being called rude names. Nearly 30% of the respondents said they experienced some form of harassment or abuse on social media.
The survey, released on Thursday at a forum organised by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation to raise awareness of school bullying, also found that 26% of the victims were under stress, 18% had problems concentrating, 16% did not want to go to school, 15% had become introverts and 13% were depressed.
Athiwat Niammeesee, who led the survey, said the findings showed that the problem of bullying in Thailand has not improved from two years ago when a Department of Mental Health survey found that Thailand had the second highest rate in the world for bullying, with 600,000 children in school being victimised.
"We need to shift the mindset that being bullied in school is acceptable, because we know that children who are victimised have problematic futures," Mr Athiwat said. "We need to boost awareness and parents need to speak to their children about what is going on in school."
He also called on the Education Ministry to take the problem seriously and promote a culture of safety both at school and at home to cut down on the loss of quality citizens due to the bullying problem.
"There must be a commitment to creating safe, inclusive and supportive learning environments, combined with training and support for teachers and other school staff. All stakeholders need to work together and give children and adolescents access to safe, child-friendly reporting mechanisms and support services," he said.
Speaking at the same forum, Family Network Foundation manager Thannitcha Limpanich agreed that bullying is so widespread that it needs serious attention. She said bullying cultivates violent behaviour.
"The bullies are aggressive and do not feel guilty. They tend to use violence to solve problems and might become criminals, while the victims can be stressed or depressed and have problems getting on with others. In severe cases, they can start hurting others or themselves or even commit suicide," she said.
Ticha Na Nakorn, director of Baan Kanchanapisek, a centre for troubled boys, said in many instances bullying took place without being noticed until it got out of hand, resulting in serious injuries and even death.
"It was only in these severe cases that the act of bullying was addressed and school bullies punished," she said, adding that the biggest challenge is to identify the problem as early as possible. "A public campaign should be launched so the public can report cases of bullying around them."