BANGKOK — Thai educational officials have reportedly changed tack and decided to approve a plan that would install condom vending machines in secondary schools.
"We won't argue if the machines are installed in schools where relevant parties and local communities believe they are needed," Kamol Rodklai, sec-gen of the Office of Basic Education Commission (OBEC), told the Nation.
His comments marked a 180-degree turn from his vow last week to “never sign approval” for the measure, which was suggested by Thailand’s Department of Disease Control (CDC).
"Vending machines should be in public restrooms and nightclubs," Kamol said on Feb 9. "If they are installed in schools, they will encourage the kids to be interested in having sex before their appropriate age. I do not think it's right to proceed with the plan."
Despite Thailand’s reputation as a top destination for sex tourism, many Thais are socially conservative and frown upon premarital sex.
The condom vending machines are a part of a five-year strategy to reduce the rate of HIV-AIDS infections and other venereal diseases among young people in Thailand, CDC Director Sophon Mekthon said last week.
"This policy is not forcing all schools to have vending machines," said Sophon. "If any school is ready for them, we will proceed with the plan. If any school disagrees with the method and has a better method, they can proceed on their own, too."
According to UNICEF, around 500,000 people in Thailand are living with HIV. A report released last year said that 70 percent of all sexually transmitted HIV infection cases in the Kingdom occur among people between the ages of 15 and 24.