CU student union's decision to scrap Phra Kieo parade stirs row

CU student union's decision to scrap Phra Kieo parade stirs row

A parade of the Phra Kieo royal headdress, the symbol of Chulalongkorn University, before the traditional soccer match between Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universities on Feb 25, 2021. (Photo: Patipat Janthong)
A parade of the Phra Kieo royal headdress, the symbol of Chulalongkorn University, before the traditional soccer match between Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universities on Feb 25, 2021. (Photo: Patipat Janthong)

A decision by the Student Union of Chulalongkorn University to dump a parade of Phra Kieo from the traditional football event has sparked debate centred on the issue of equality and respect for the university and its founder.

The student government body announced on its Facebook account on Saturday the cancellation of the Phra Kieo parade in the annual football match between Chulalongkorn University and its sports rival, Thammasat University.

Phra Kieo is the symbol of the country's oldest university and the Phra Kiew parade is part of the annual football event. The Chulalongkorn-Thammasat football match, the nation's oldest university soccer match,  also includes other parades by students from the two tertiary schools sending messages about politics and other contemporary issues to the public and those in power.

The CU student body said in the announcement that the Phra Kieo parade was a symbol of "authoritariansm" and reflected inequality as it was carried by some 50 students on a sedan chair. The student administration had voted 29-0 to scrap the tradition, it said.

The announcement was issued on Chulalongkorn Day falling on Oct 23 every year. It is the day King Chulalongkorn or King Rama V died. He was the founder of the university and his successor, King Rama VI, gave the present name to the university.

The student union is led by activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, a political science student, who put himself in the spotlight when he and six other students walked out of the ceremony held for new students to prostate themelves before the monument of the two kings on campus in 2017 at the time when he was president of the student council.

"The road to abolishing the Phra Kriew parade is not easy," Mr Netiwit tweeted around midnight on Saturday. He said he and other supporters had to fight hard against those opposing the plan to achieve this goal.

The Facebook account of the student union was flooded by comments supporting the controversial move but was greeted with opposition from others on other social media platforms.

Thai Sang Thai Party key member and CU alumnus Wattana Muangsook hit back on Sunday saying on his Twitter account that the football event was organised by the alumni of the two universities. The decision on the Phra Kieo parade rested on the organisers, not the student union, he said.

The politician said former students from the two schools would be ready to carry the symbol on a sedan chair if the procession was rejected by the study body.

Win Lyovarin, a national artist and a former CU student, argued that Phra Kieo was not a symbol of inequality. It was the link between school students and university students with King Rama V, he wrote.

Several schools also use Phra Kieo as their symbol, including the Triem Udom Suksa and Bodindecha (Sing Singhaseni) schools.

"Phra Kieo is the symbol of the university founder. It is also the symbol of knowledge and it is the symbol of gratitude," he said.


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