Government Orders Schools to Tolerate Protests

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Schools have been informed to allow its  students to participate in protests to express their political views as an attemp to defuse growing frustrations and demands for political change.

A decision confirmed by Minister of Education Nataphol Teepsuwan, followed by media reports about students from different schools flashing the three-finger greeting in front of flagpole during their morning assembly and using white ribbons as a sign against dictatorship.

There had been mixed initial responses from school administrators to their opposition, with some teachers allegedly rebuking students and advising them not to take their protests to school premises.

Statement from Mr Nataphol on Tuesday says that the right of a child to freedom of speech and expression should not stop at school gates, and that the Office of the Commission for Basic Education (Obec) should therefore send a letter to the schools under its control to ensure that they completely understand what those freedoms are.

According to him Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had accepted those rights and requested the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education for Research and Innovation to seek out ways to prevent the situation from escalating and worsening the economic problems of the country.

Mr Nataphol said school administrators and teachers should be encouraged to build space for students to voice their opposition and views on different issues. It is hoped the expected dialog would relieve their rage and frustration.

Right after Mr Nataphol ‘s remark, Obec duly sent a letter to educational directors across the country urging them to let students participate in law-sponsored protest activities. According to the letter signed by the Deputy Secretary General of Obec, Wattanaporn Rangabtuk, outsiders will not be permitted to participate however.

Amnat Wichayanuwat, Secretary-General of Obec, said that students were entitled to dissent as long as their actions were lawful.

Around 50 students joined a demonstration at Samsen Witthayalai School in Bangkok— each held a blank sheet of white paper in one hand and performed a three-fingered gesture with the other. They screamed the word “Out with Tyranny”three times then tear up the paper into pieces.

A student leader said that the school administrators did not ban the practice, nor did they threaten students. And no students will be shunned or mistreated unless they joined the campaign.

Shools in Lumpang and  Soem Ngam district have cancelled morning assembly and asked to make protest  gestures during national anthems. Other than that students were not prohibited  the ability to express dissent.

On Tuesday, Isoc officials in several provinces filed reports about the activities of the students which they said had continued without incident. Pol Maj Gen Somprasong Yenthuam, the Metropolitan Police Bureau’s deputy commissioner, said the demonstrations weren’t illegal but it remained to be seen if they violated the rights of fellow students. He said police had merely noticed what happened after reports. Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon light-heartedly dismissed the three-fingered gesture as a salute to Boy Scouts. “Oh, scouts… scouts,” he said before warning people should think carefully before they support political demonstrations.

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