BANGKOK — The vice president of the nation’s top fine arts university on Tuesday confirmed reports that freshmen students were ordered to strip naked during an on-campus initiation ritual.
Pitak Siriwong of Silpakorn University acknowledged some details alleged by a male freshman who said he and his peers were forced to strip naked and take showers with older students, with one student forced to touch a senior’s genitals. The anonymous student, identified only as Best, said they were woken up at night and ordered to strip again in a second incident.
Reports about the incident, which reportedly took place a year ago, surfaced last week on social media. Students’ stories were publicized by a Facebook page dedicated to fighting the tradition of hazing in Thai schools, known as rub nong.
Silpakorn vice president Pitak Siriwong acknowledged the late night stripping occurred but disputed that students were made to take showers. However, he blamed the incident it on former students who had already graduated but came back to participate.
“The current senior students already tried to stop them. They tried to say society has changed,” Pitak, who also oversees student affairs, said by phone. “In the Fine Arts Faculty, the graduates still have a lot of influence, so they came back and bullied the freshmen.”
Pitak also vowed to come up with measures to stop graduates from interfering with the initiation rituals or imposing violent methods.
According to Best, the freshmen were ordered to get up at 3am, strip naked and pile all their clothes together. The seniors later shouted at the freshmen to dress quickly in other people’s clothes, Best said in an interview with Amarin TV.
Pitak said the incident lasted about 20 minutes. He added the university has convened a disciplinary investigation.
“The university is not being idle about this,” Pitak said. “We will investigate this as fast as possible, then we will submit the conclusion to the president for further announcement.”
The allegation was first aired Saturday by Anti-SOTUS Facebook page, whose name refers to the core hierarchical principles of Thai university life: Seniority, order, tradition, unity and spirit.
In the interview, Best said the incident took place in 2016 during a three-day initiation event held on Silpakorn’s campus. Apart from the 3am stripping, Best said he and his classmates were blindfolded and forced to strip naked to shower with the senior students, who were also naked. While waiting in line, Best said he was forced to touch a male senior’s genitals.
“I was blindfolded and it happened quickly,” Best said. “But as soon as my fingers touch it, I knew it was. The senior students were all laughing at me.”
Vice president Pitak denied the story. The students were sent naked in groups of five to group shower “because there were not enough bathrooms,” he said, and no senior students were present.
He also disputed another allegation by Anti-SOTUS that Fine Arts freshmen were ordered to shave their heads by the senior students. Pitak said it’s a “tradition” for new students at the faculty to go skinhead for a semester to learn humility.
“Art students like to wear really long hair,” Pitak said. “But when they’re in first year, we don’t let them to become hippies yet. That’s the point where they would be the most orderly. They would be subject to discipline.”