World Bulletin/News Desk
After chasing street vendors from Bangkok footpaths and clamping down on mafia gangs extorting money from motorcycle taxis, the Thai military regime is threatening unruly vocational students with harsh measures after a spate of violence among rival colleges - the latest stage in its grand campaign to re-order the country.
Junta chief and Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha said this week that he was considering ordering the closure of vocational colleges whose students are involved in brawls.
He addressed the topic again during his weekly televised speech last Friday, saying that these students “were wasting their opportunities and tarnishing the international reputation of Thailand.”
“Today we are taking full legal action,” he stressed.
The PM’s reaction came on the heels of violent fights among vocational students that resulted in several deaths over the last weeks.
On September 12, six students from Rajamangala University of Technology Uthen Tawai, located in a Bangkok suburb, killed by gunfire two students from a college they considered as a “rival” to theirs, the Pathum Thani Institute of Technology. They had also suspected the murdered students of having killed, also with a gun, one of their own female classmates at the end of August.
On September 1, these same six students shot dead a student of another college in the street, after mistakenly thinking he attended the Pathum Thani Institute of Technology.
The six students have been arrested for murder and are awaiting their trial.
Brawls among vocational students from different colleges have been occurring for decades in Thailand.
While initially motivated by questions of pride and rivalries between colleges, the acts of violence trigger an endless cycle of revenge attacks involving blunt weapons, knife, swords and guns.
Sometimes the aim is to “capture” the belt buckle of a rival student, part of the school uniform, as a kind of trophy.
Bus stops and department stores are the favorite scenes for such fights.
Thai authorities have never been able to eradicate the problem - but this time, the military regime seemed to mean business, with education officials announcing a series of new measures following Chan-ocha’s warning.
The principals of both colleges involved in the September 12 incident have been threatened with an official probe if the fights continue.
Suthasri Wongsamarn, permanent secretary at the ministry of education, asked the schools to install closed-circuit cameras on campus and to conduct random searches of students.
She also broached the idea of inter-school orientation camps for first-year students in order to foster comradeship among them.
From now on, the colleges whose students start fights will be punished by a one-week closure to allow investigation and to avoid reprisal attacks from rival schools, said Bandit Sripruethangkoon, secretary-general of the private education commission.
“If the students carry out attacks three consecutive times, enrollment of first-year students to that college could be halted,” he said.
Watch-lists of colleges and students linked to violence are also being drawn up.
General Chan-ocha has also expressed wishes to reform the mindset of students by instilling “good values” in them.
As of October 1, all students will have to recite daily a set of twelve values written by Chan-ocha, which include love for the Thai monarchy, nation and religion, gratitude to parents, guardians and teachers and efforts to conserve Thai culture.
Since seizing power May 22, Thailand’s junta has thrown its weight behind nationalistic propaganda to - as it sees it - help foster unity, mend political divisions, and encourage subservience.
Last Mod: 21 Eylül 2014, 12:45