BANGKOK — The educational "reforms" devised by Thailand’s military junta will instill students with a “correct” understanding of democracy, top officials say.
"I am afraid that children understand democracy in an incorrect way because of the events in the country’s recent past," said Gen. Suthat Kanchananonkul, who was appointed to advise the Ministry of Education by the Cabinet last month. "Therefore, I want all the teachers and school administrators to promote correct democracy for the kids."
After seizing power in a coup on 22 May, the junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) called for overhauling Thailand's education system to promote patriotism among Thai youth.
Kamol Rodklai, the secretary-general of the Office of Basic Education Commission (OBEC), said the junta’s revised history textbooks are ready to be used in public schools across the country from 3 November onward.
"There has to be a drastic change in the way history is taught," Kamol said, "It shouldn't focus only on the details of what happened, but also focus on creating a sense of Thainess and patriotism for the children."
Last month, it emerged that the Ministry of Education's new history textbooks failed to mention former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, an extremely influential political figure who backed the government toppled in the 22 May coup.
The revelation alarmed many observers who interpret the move as an effort by the junta to "rewrite" history.
NCPO chairman and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has also encouraged Thai students to practice his "Twelve Values," a set of teachings that include gratitude for parents, morality, and loyalty to the Royal Family. Last month, the Ministry of Education unveiled a poem inspired by Gen. Prayuth's Twelve Values that students will be recquired to memorise.
NCPO chairman Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is also Prime Minister of the interim government, says he led the 22 May coup to prevent anti-government protests from spiraling out of control. Nearly 30 people were killed during the six months of street protests against the government of then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.