Today, most schools close for the weekend, therefore Yok, a 15-year-old political activist who had previously been imprisoned under Article 112, would not have received media attention if she had attempted to access her school again by climbing over the fence of Triam Udom Suksa Phatthanakan School in casual wear. She did it on June 14, 15, and 16.
Despite having been expelled from school once before, on Friday Yok arrived before 8 a.m. to find that the school gates are firmly locked. Undeterred, she tries to climb over the fence, but a teacher threatens to report her for trespassing and obstructing the entrance.
Yok made a lightning decision, jumps through a window and successfully enters the school building. The police, both in uniform and plain clothes, also enter the school during the commotion.
The future of Yok’s education remains uncertain following the ongoing conflict with the school administration that led to her climbing over the school fence for three consecutive days.
Yok posted a message on the issue late in the evening of June 13, sharing that she had been expelled from school for her dyed hair and wearing casual attire. She also recounted the incident in which a teacher stressed that “from now on you are an outsider”
The school then issued a statement clarifying that Yok’s name was not in the registration database of the DMC system of the Ministry of Education. This was because she had not registered with her parents or guardian as required. The school again pointed out that Yok’s mother should accompany her on 10 June, because that was the deadline.
In addition, the statement highlighted Yok’s failure to abide by school rules, such as wearing the prescribed school uniform, dyeing her hair, attending classes or appointments on time as requested by the students, and refusing to participate in activities such as home exercises, flag-raising ceremonies and other events. These actions were seen as a refusal to accept the school rules and a refusal to engage with the school’s procedures.
The issue surrounding Yok has sparked widespread debate on social media, highlighting the contrasting perspectives between conservatism and liberalism. It goes beyond the realm of school uniforms and authoritarianism to include political issues: it is claimed that the young generation is being brainwashed by political parties that promote radical expressions and demands for excessive rights, directly targeting the Move Forward Party, which recently won the elections.
Amphon Pinasa, the General Secretary of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC), said he had discussed the matter with the school headmaster and the school committee. Both the school and the government are willing to allow Yok to attend classes provided she abides by the school’s rules. However, if Yok does not abide by these rules, she has the option of pursuing alternative education, such as homeschooling or studying outside the formal education system.
Sompong Chitradub, an education expert, revealed that he believes that both current and future educational institutions, especially schools and universities, have a lot to learn and adapt. As long as they hold on to rules, norms and authoritarian power, they will constantly face challenges from children who cross the boundaries and challenge the existing authoritarian processes.
“In Yok’s case, if the school understands the problem, recognizes the context and the child’s perspective, it should become a place that is gentle to Yok’s life. It should not only be gentle but also provide opportunities and restore the learning experience for the child. It should not push the child to be an outsider or claim that the child has no parents to answer to. What the school is doing with Yok shows that we are using rules, norms, authoritarian power and adults to manage a child who is different from other children,” Sompong explained.