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Student activist Thanalop Phalanchai, 15, was forced to climb the school wall to get to class yesterday morning (14 June) after the school closed its doors on her despite not formally expelling her. The school later claimed that she has not been properly enrolled and has not been following the school dress code.

Thanalop Phalanchai during a day at school. (Photo supplied by Thanalop).

Thanalop posted on her Facebook page on Tuesday night (13 June) that she was told by several teachers and the school’s deputy principals that they had expelled her after summoning her into a room without her parents or guardians.

She wrote that one of the teachers questioned her, asking why she was being followed and why she is unsafe. She asked the teachers to call her guardian and attempted to record the conversation so that her guardian would know what the teachers were doing, but was accused of violating the teachers’ rights by recording the conversation.

She then asked to leave the room, but was prohibited from doing so by the teachers who surrounded her, so she had to crawl under a table to get to the door. Before she left the room, she was told by one of the deputy principals that the school will refund her tuition fees and that she should remember that she is now an outsider.

Activist Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, who was appointed Thanalop’s guardian by her family, said that Thanalop has dyed her hair and has not been wearing uniform to school and has questioned the school dress code. She also refused to join activities she questioned the point of, such as the morning roll call where students have to stand during the National Anthem. He said that she has however never been late to class.

Sopon said that although the school has spoken to him several times and deducted her behaviour points for not attending the roll call, they had never had issues with her dyeing her hair and going to school out of uniform.

“Every place has its rules, but we can question those rules. Teachers especially, who are educating children, should be able to tell them the reason why things can or cannot be done,” he said.

“There is no need to threaten children or deduct their points. Yok has been asking questions, but the teachers would mention her in class. Teachers have been speaking to her regularly during the past three weeks since school started.”

Sopon said that police officers have been following Thanalop and taking pictures of her, as well as men wearing the yellow shirt and blue hat of the Royal Volunteers. He also said that teachers have made sarcastic remarks about Thanalop’s activism during class, but did not tell her off for it. He noted that Thanalop has been working with the activist group Mok Luang Rim Nam for a long time, and that teachers previously prevented outsiders from following her inside school grounds, and said that he was surprised by yesterday’s incident.

Thanalop went to school again at around 8.00 yesterday morning (14 June), but found that the gate was closed. On a Facebook live broadcast, she said that the school security guard also stopped her from entering the school grounds. She was made to wait inside a room for three hours, before deciding to climb over the school wall. A teacher came up to her and ordered her to wait at the door, but did not tell her what to do next.

Activist Netiporn Sanesangkhom, who went with Thanalop to the school, said that she was later allowed to go to class after being made to wait for a total of 3 hours.

Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakarn School could not be reached for comment. Prachatai attempted to call the school several times between 10.55 – 11.55 yesterday morning, but the calls were not answered. Meanwhile, the online news outlet The Matter said they contacted the school, but were told that all school officials have been ordered not to speak to the media.

Treenuch Thienthong, acting Minister of Education, told Matichon Online that the school’s principal told her they had not expelled Thanalop and that she can still attend class as normal. She also said that Thanalop should respect school rules.

Under a set of regulations issued by the Ministry of Education, schools are only allowed to punish students by giving them warnings, putting them on probation, deducting their behaviour points, or making them perform activities to adjust their behaviour. Expulsion is not a punishment allowed by the regulations.

The school later issued a statement saying that Thanalop’s information has not been added to the school’s record because her mother did not come to enrol her. The school also said that she “refused to accept school rules and enter the school procedures” by dying her hair, not wearing a uniform to school, and not attending the morning roll call and homeroom class.

Netiporn, who is acting as Thanalop’s guardian and enrolled her in school, said she has already told the school she is paying Thanalop’s tuition fees and that Thanalop is living with her until she finishes school. Netiporn also said that, when Thanalop came to enrol at the school after being released from the Ban Pranee Juvenile Vocational Training Center for Girl, she and other activists caring for Thanalop already told the school that they had not been able to contact Thanalop’s biological parents since before she was detained. The school told Netiporn that the 15-year-old would be allowed to enrol, but Netiporn must ensure Thanalop's parents come to school.

However, Netiporn said that she could not contact Thanalop’s parents, even after visiting their address. She is not sure if the family had moved, and because the school has been pressuring her, she brought in a national human rights commissioner to the school to discuss the issue. The commissioner told the school that Thanalop getting an education is more important than finding her parents to complete the paperwork, and Netiporn has committed to paying for the 15-year-old’s tuition. The principal then agreed to let Netiporn act as Thanalop's guardian.

However, Netiporn said the school called Thanalop on 9 June and told her to bring her parents, or they will expel her, but Thanalop told the school that she cannot reach her parents. A teacher also went to the family’s address but did not find them.

Netiporn asked how Thanalop was given a student ID number if her information is not in the school database, and said she believes there is an ongoing attempt to stop Thanalop from studying at the school.

Thanalop was once again forced to climb over the school gate to get to class today (15 June), as school personnel refused to open the gate for her, even when other students were being allowed in.

At 15 years old, Thanalop is the youngest person to ever be held in pre-trial detention on a royal defamation charge. After being arrested on 28 March, she spent 51 days at the Ban Pranee Juvenile Vocational Training Centre for Girls and was released on 18 May.

She was charged with royal defamation for an incident that occurred around the Giant Swing in Bangkok’s old town on 13 October 2022 after a complaint was filed against her by royalist Anon Klinkaew, head of the ultra-royalist group People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy. At the time, she was 14 years old.

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