BANGKOK — Tied to a tree and beaten unconscious. Slapped in the skull so hard an ear is partially sliced off. Forced to inhale smoke from a pot of hot coals mixed with spices.
Those may sound like medieval torture or Khmer Rouge interrogation techniques, but they were punishments some users of the Pantip webforum said they endured as children after upsetting their parents.
The stories were shared by Pantippers in a thread titled “When you were kids, what was the most cruel way your parents punished you?” started back in May which suddenly went viral over the weekend, drawing more than 900 replies by Tuesday.
While commonplace punishments such as caning and slapping were expected, some methods sounded disturbingly sadistic.
“I skipped class when I was in Grade 5. My teacher came to see me at home. After the teacher left, dad tied my hands to a mango tree, then he used an electric cable to whip me until the coating came off, leaving only the copper. After I passed out and woke up, he whipped me again until I passed out yet again. When I woke up, mom had already taken me to a doctor,” wrote user Smarter Than a Dog, Funnier Than a Horse.
Of course the stories are impossible to verify, but the pattern of accounts, many provided by regular users, provided a narrative of the abuse which passes as fierce discipline.
User Confused With Myself wrote about being slapped until “a piece of my ear was sliced off … “
“I didn’t come home to eat lunch at home,” the user wrote. “I was playing Legos at my friend’s place.”
A report released by Ministry of Public Health said over 23,000 cases of violence against women and children were recorded by state hospitals throughout the country in 2015. Many of those incidents were domestic violence, the report said.
“When I was young, I was really stubborn. For non-serious offenses , mom would cane me with a galangal plant. For serious offenses, mom would fill coconut shells with red hot coals mixed with a bits of coconut and dry chili. And she would force my head down to smoke it. It was so painful to my eyes and nose. As for my dad, he would cane me with stingray tails,” wrote user Piglet Looking at the Moon.
User Nighttime Circus wrote that the memory remains strong and led to a depression that is still suffered today.
“What stuck in my memory was when I hurried up with … writing because I wanted to go out and play, so my handwriting was not pretty. My booklet was torn to pieces in front of me,” Nighttime Circus wrote. “I cried so hard. It was seared into my memory. I was also caned because I didn’t write with my right hand like other people. I was left-handed.”
Crocodile of the Nile recounted being wrongly accused of stealing a look at a housemaid taking a shower:
“So dad used a metal badminton racket to slap me repeatedly, not caring where it hit me. I and my sibling were hurt; we were scared. We ended up running away to live with our grandmom who lived close by. I think I was in grade 5 or 6.”
Many comments end with disclaimers that they still love and respect their parents, despite the cruel and unusual treatment.
Corporal punishment is still widespread, even though legal protection of children rights has progressed much in recent decades, said social worker Sappasit Khumprapan.
“First of all, it’s illegal,” said Sappasit, director of Centre for the Protection of Children’s Rights. “Secondly, it doesn’t solve anything … Physical punishment such as beating doesn’t teach children what they should or should not do.”
Section 26 of the 2003 Child Protection Act outlaws any “action or inaction that is considered a physical or mental cruelty to children.”.
Instead of resorting to violence, Sappasit said Thai parents should find out why their children fail them in certain tasks.
“For example, your kid doesn’t do homework. You have to find out, was it because of addiction to video games? … Did they have a problem with self-motivation? Or was it because they couldn’t understand the classroom instruction?” Sappasit said.
He noted that violence against children is not only confined to the home but also happens at schools, as often seen in news. In February, a Bangkok school teacher was disciplined for slapping schoolgirls. Two years ago in Mae Hong Son, a teacher reportedly sawed off a 4-year-old boy’s ear.
Some comments in the Pantip thread drew a link between brutal punishment of children and the violence prevalent in the society.
“I’m not surprised that many Thai kids grew up with issues of fear, lack of confidence … and they’re willing to be exploited and taken advantage of while cowering in fear,” wrote user Please Chase Me Off to Bed. “It’s because you are raised with violence. A violence that you don’t even know is violence.”