BANGKOK — Education minister Nataphol Teepsuwan on Wednesday threatened a legal action against high school activists who run a website where students can report abuses at their school.
Nataphol said during an interview with MCOT’s “Inside Thailand” news show this morning that the disclosure of teachers’ and schools’ names on the website is considered a violation of privacy and therefore a probable cause for lawsuits.
His comment came after a hundred of students staged a protest in front of the education ministry to demand an end to compulsory uniforms and other rules deemed as excessive.
“[The website] can cause problems in the future,” Nataphol said. “Some people may expose personal information of students who did not wear uniforms. It also affects teachers as well, so this may infringe their rights.”
He continued, “I asked the legal department to look into ways to close down the website. I want them to think of legal consequences.”
“It’s just a demand from a certain group of people,” Nataphol went on. “I believe most students are still willing to comply with the rules and understand their roles as a student.”
The website was launched Tuesday by the “Bad Students” group to coincide with their campaign for students to wear casual clothes to school instead of uniforms, which they perceived as an outworn rule that infringes on students’ freedom of choice.
Although a number of schools did not interfere with students wearing casual outfits, others were met with harassment from their teachers and threatened with disciplinary action.
The website allows students to report issues they faced from wearing casual outfits by submitting the teacher’s name, the name of the school where the incident took place, and details of the incident. The forms were later published on the website.
Mint, one of the members of the group, said her group is not concerned about the legal threat made by the education minister. She said the information submitted to the website will be compiled into statistical data, though her group is still discussing how to take action against teachers accused in the list.
“We have our own legal advisors,” Mint said. “We’re still figuring out what to do with the data.”
Under the ministerial regulation, school uniform, which consists of a white shirt and a pair of shorts or a skirt, is compulsory for students in both public and private school systems from kindergarten through high school. The dress code typically comes with strict military-styled haircut rules.
PM Prayut Chan-o-cha himself expressed support for maintaining the uniform system.
Speaking at a government event in which he chatted with some kindergarteners, Prayut said uniforms help members of the public to distinguish students, and they are less costly than casual attire.
“Uniforms can be easily noticed if students fall in danger,” Prayut said on Tuesday. “It’s also less waste of money than casual outfits.”