Thailand’s ‘Bad Students’ get an education from the streets

Bangkok, Nov 20 (AFP/APP):A mild-mannered teenage girl with owl glasses, a bob haircut and daisies painted on her fingernails is not your typical school troublemaker.

But in the eyes of Thailand’s ultra-conservative school system and the kingdom’s justice system, Benjamaporn “Ploy” Nivas has been cast as a rebel for daring to express herself.

“Students should be able to think for themselves and be themselves,” Ploy told AFP during a recent protest at Bangkok’s democracy monument.

The 15-year-old is at the forefront of Thailand’s “Bad Student” movement which is planning a major rally in Bangkok on Saturday.

Ahead of the event, officers on Thursday issued her and two male students with a summons to report to a Bangkok police station for questioning.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights say the trio have brought the tally of juveniles facing prosecution over protest activities in Thailand to four — while overall 175 protesters have been charged with sedition or public assembly offences.

Thai schools have very strict dress standards, with ponytails and ribbons mandated for girls and military-style crew cuts for boys.

But after years of having rules drummed into them, Ploy and her fellow high school activists have gone rogue, emboldened by the broader political protest movement currently sweeping Thailand.

The students want cultural change, a curriculum overhaul, equality and a relaxation of rigid rules.

“We are brainwashed… as students we are taught not to ask questions, but to study and memorize the facts for exams,” she said.

History textbooks are a particular bone of contention in a country which has seen a dozen coups since becoming a democracy in 1932.

School books gloss over events such as the massacre of pro-democracy university students in the 1970s, and instead focus on promoting the work of the monarchy.

The campaign has had a mixed reaction from her teachers.

“If my teachers are on same side with me, the democracy side, they will admire me — but if they want (the status quo) those teachers hate me,” Ploy said.

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