Young student removed after protest in front of Prayut

Young student removed after protest in front of Prayut

A student activist is escorted from a convention hall after he showed a message to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, suggesting he order the dropping of civic duties as a subject taught at primary and secondary schools. (Post Today photo)
A student activist is escorted from a convention hall after he showed a message to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, suggesting he order the dropping of civic duties as a subject taught at primary and secondary schools. (Post Today photo)

An 11th grade student was forcibly removed from a packed auditorium where Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was speaking after he showed a banner suggesting the subject of civic duties be removed from school curricula, claiming it could not train youngsters to fight graft.

The incident occurred when Gen Prayut was delivering the keynote speech to mark National Anti-Corruption Day. He was ending his speech, entitled “Government Progress on Anti-Corruption Reform”, at Centara Grand at CentralWorld and had asked the audience if anyone wanted to question him, Matichon Online reported. 

A male youth in high school uniform raised his hand and showed a banner containing a message that read: “Teaching Thai kids not to be corrupt adults must involve the rationale and ethics, rather than memorising civic duties. From the heart of a student to Uncle Tu.” Tu is Gen Prayut’s nickname. 

Two security guards invited the student to go outside the convention hall but he resisted. The guards then used light pressure to escort him outside.  

“Take it easy. He is still young. Take care of him,” Gen Prayut told security personnel from the stage.

The prime minister asked what subject the student wanted to petition him about and instructed authorities to accept it on his behalf. 

The incident stirred panic and curiosity among the audience but the situation returned to normal after Gen Prayut jokingly asked them if the student was a government supporter. “Hey, security guards, if he is [on the government’s side] take good care of him”. His remarks drew laughter from the crowd.

The youth studies at a prestigious school and is secretary-general of Education for Liberation of Siam (ELS), a group of high school and university students advocating change in the Thai education system. He was taken to Pathumwan police station for questioning. A group of student activists from Thammasat University later came to cheer him.  

He told police he wanted to personally give Gen Prayut a letter suggesting civic duties be dropped as a school subject. He was not sure if it would reach him if he filed it with a state agency. 

His letter proposed that to instill anti-graft awareness in young people, the teaching of civil duties in primary and secondary schools must stop. Teachers should teach philosophy and ethics in classes instead. 

He said the content of civic duties as a subject mostly told students what was good or bad and what to do as a good Thai citizen. This skipped the crucial step in asking the “why question”.   

“In real life, what will they do if they encounter a circumstance which is not in their textbooks. But if they learn ethics and philosophy they will be able to think and act by themselves on a case-by-case basis,” the student said. 

The student said he came to petition Gen Prayut without any hidden agenda and called for educational reform. The banner message was not violent nor attacked anyone, and so he should not be held. 

Gen Prayut’s representative reportedly reviewed the student’s petition. 

Police did not charge the teen nor record the incident in the daily journal. They contacted his parents to be briefed about what happened before they took him home.

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