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Thailand's 'Bad Students' demand minister's resignation, reforms

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s self-styled “Bad Student” campaigners demanded the resignation of Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan on Friday after touring some of Bangkok’s high schools in a brightly painted truck and calling for reforms.

Students take part in a rally of the Bad Student movement demanding the education minister's resignation at a school in Bangkok, Thailand, October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Jiraporn Kuhakan

“Get out, get out, get out!” they chanted from the open-top truck after it parked in front of the steps of the Education Ministry.

The group, part of a broader protest movement that has gained momentum in Thailand since July and is calling for greater democracy, also threw thousands of copies of a mock resignation letter from the minister into the air.

“This is a man without any qualifications,” said Laponpat Wangpaisit, an activist from the group.

The minister was not in Bangkok, but senior officials met the students.

“We received the petition from the students and will investigate them,” Permanent Secretary of Education, Supatra Champathong, said. The resignation letter, with a space left for Nataphol to sign, will be passed onto the minister, he added.

Nataphol did not respond to a request for comment.

Earlier, the group visited schools throughout the capital, cheered on by pupils who have also demanded educational reforms including an end to harassment and to school rules they say are outdated.

From behind school gates, pupils cheered the protesters, sang songs mocking school rules and gave the three-finger salute of pro-democracy campaigners. At one school, pupils put a sign on the gate saying: “Teachers at this school harass students.”

Student campaigners complain that Thailand’s school system is geared more towards instilling obedience than education.

Concerns over the harsh treatment of pupils have risen this week after the emergence of closed-circuit camera footage of teachers hitting young children. The clips prompted outrage and calls for measures to be taken against the schools.

As protests gather pace, some campaigners are also seeking reforms to the powerful monarchy. They plan a major demonstration on Oct. 14.

Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat, Editing by Matthew Tostevin, Janet Lawrence and Mike Collett-White

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