Students tell Nataphol what's wrong

Students tell Nataphol what's wrong

Students rally in front of the Education Ministry in Bangkok on Wednesday evening. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Students rally in front of the Education Ministry in Bangkok on Wednesday evening. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

About 500 school students on Wednesday staged a protest at the Ministry of Education, demanding a new constitution, House dissolution and a halt to government harassment of student activists.

The demonstrators, who call themselves "Bad Students", converged outside the ministry at 4pm where they demanded that Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan come out to listen to their demands.

"If the minister cannot make our demands happen, he should resign," Laponpat Wangpaisit, 18, leader of the group, said.

The student leader also made a speech, calling on the ministry to abolish its strict haircut and uniform regulations as well as morning assemblies in front of flagpoles that violate the human rights of students.

"The ministry must reform the education system in this country to narrow the quality gap among public schools," Mr Laponpat said.

During the protest, the students flashed the anti-military three finger salute and tied white ribbons of freedom to protest against the government.

They also blew whistles at the minister to mock him for taking part in the anti-democracy "whistle mob" protests of 2014.

Mr Nataphol is a former key leader of the People's Democratic Reform Committee, a right-wing pressure group known for blowing whistles during street protests that led to the coup against the democratically elected government in 2014.

Mr Nataphol was told by the group leader to go to the back of the line of protesters.

The minister thus went to the back of the line and sat down with the students to hear their concerns.

The minister later said he was glad the students spoke up as they are the country's future.

"The students are concerned about their future which is a good thing. I've told them that many problems are being addressed by the ministry such as the haircut regulations; however for issues like education inequality, it will take time," Mr Nataphol said.

He had ordered schools nationwide to allow students to express their political views on campuses via student councils.

A 15-year-old student at the protest said he was harassed by teachers, administrators and police for taking part in a political demonstration at school and the ministry did nothing to protect students.

"The education minister did nothing to condemn the harassment student protesters faced. I want him to know right now," he said.

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