BANGKOK — At the first student-led ‘pride march’ in Thailand ever on Wednesday, young protesters demanded that state teachers stop discriminating against LGBT students, more progressive health and sex education, and a revision of draconian haircut rules.
The students marched along Ratchadamnoen Avenue to the Ministry of Education, holding up signs like “We are not freaks” and “The rights of LGBTIQANs+ students are human rights!” Their representatives also submitted a formal complaint to state education authorities.
Ministry’s deputy perm-sec Prasert Boonruang received the petition and offered a word of understanding with the students.
“I understand that due to social change, many things cannot continue to abide by tradition,” Prasert said. “But the Ministry of Education is not the only ministry to determine these changes. Many ministries must have meetings about this.”
But the atmosphere was decidedly tense as the protesters also pressed Prasert on how public schools across the country continue to impose an abolished dress code that involves students cutting their hair short.
“These are social rules, not violations of human rights,” Prasert replied. “The Ministry of Education has already issued middle-of-the-road rules that schools can implement themselves.”
When asked for a deadline for concrete changes, Prasert said he would call meetings with other authorities within two to three months, and when asked to swear as a promise, Prasert said “bureaucratic processes have to be followed.”
Students also urged teachers to stop using derogatory terms and swear words to humiliate and discriminate LGBT students. A female student then cut off her hair with a battery trimmer in a symbolic protest, while a male student took off his school uniform to reveal a female uniform underneath.
The students also tore up a Ministry of Education-issued health and sex ed textbook for printing and teaching what the student say is outdated content.
The march began at 10am at the Nitasrattanakosin Exhibition Hall and ended at the Ministry of Education.
During the march the students sang “Lamalila,” a cheerleading song where the lyrics were changed to promote LGBT equality: “Office of the Basic Education is the disgusting source of problems. Gender is up to one’s heart, not genitals between one’s legs. …What era are you from? Jurassic Era called and wants you back.”
The demonstration also opened the LGBT anthem “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.
The student pride march appears to have piggybacked on the popularity of the Saturday night LGBT protest at Democracy Monument, where student-led protesters demanded a new election and equal rights for all genders.