Khon Kaen student displays banner against university privatisation

A student in Thailand’s Northeast has displayed a banner and distributed leaflets against university privatisation.

A student of Khon Kaen University, the largest university of the northeastern region of Thailand, at around 4 pm on 8 April hung a banner with a message reading “Khon Kaen University Company President-(Dictator) Ltd” from the top floor of the Food and Service Centre on the university campus.

The student also distributed leaflets identifying four main reasons why the university should not be privatised.

Banner with the message reading “Khon Kaen University Company President-(Dictator) Ltd” hanging from the top of the Food and Service Centre of Khon Kaen University on 8 April 2015

In early March, Education Minister Adm Narong Pittatanasai announced that the cabinet had approved the bills to privatise Thammasat University, Thailand’s second oldest tertiary education institute, and Khon Kaen University, the oldest and largest public university in northeastern Thailand.

The bills will transform the two institutions from public institutions to institutions under state supervision. Once privatised, universities will be free to manage their own income, to hire personnel, or even to invest.

In the leaflets, the student pointed out that the plan to privatise Khon Kaen University did not take into account public participation of the institution’s personnel and students.

The bill to privatise the university is also being processed by the junta’s cabinet and National Legislative Assembly (NLA), which significantly shortens the normal procedures of approving the bill under civilian government.

The leaflets identifying four main reasons why Khon Kaen University should not be privatised, which were distributed on the university Campus on 8 April 2015.

The privatisation process will result in cuts of public financial support for students and an increase in university tuition fees, the student added.

Moreover, it will give more authority to the university’s President and Executive Committee to issue regulations and manage the university’s property, which would be difficult to check for transparency.

Previously, plans to privatise public universities have been proposed under many civilian administrations. But the plans were often dropped due to popular public disapproval led mostly by student groups.

After the coup d’état in 2006, however, as many as seven leading universities in Thailand, including Chulalongkorn University, the oldest university in the country, and Mahidol University, were hastily privatised in 2007-2008 by an unelected legislature.

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