The student activist group Bad Student staged a protest at the Ministry of Education to call for gender equality and LGBTQ rights in the school system.
Students posing in front of the Ministry wall, from which they put up a rainbow Pride flag (Picture by Chana La)
The protest took place at 15.45 on Friday (18 June) and was broadcast live on Bad Student’s Facebook page. The group staged a performance symbolizing discrimination against LGBTQ students in Thai schools, and wrapped a rainbow Pride flag around the statue of King Vajiravudh in front of the Ministry building.
Police officers stationed in the area then pulled down the flag and pushed the group and reporters covering the event off the lawn in front of the building. Voice Online reported that the participant who climbed up the base of the statue to wrap it with the Pride flag was detained by two officers, who tried to take them away. However, the rest of the group stopped the officers and told them that they must state the charges before they can arrest the participant. The officers were not able to state the charges, and the participant was released.
On Saturday (19 June), Ministry spokesperson Kesthip Supawanich said that the group’s action has angered many people, and that the Ministry has communicated with other relevant agencies and found that the participant who wrapped the flag around the statue was 22 years old and is therefore not a minor and no longer in the school system. Kesthip said that the Ministry will be proceeding with the next steps against the group, and said that the students will not be allowed to hold another event inside the Ministry grounds.
Bad Student then issued a statement on their Facebook page condemning police officers for using excessive force against the participants and the Ministry for caring more about a statue than school safety, as the event was held to demand that the Ministry solve the issue of gender-based discrimination and violations of human rights against LGBTQ students in Thai schools.
“Gender diversity is no harm to anyone. If the Ministry of Education does not understand this principle, and even sees that gender diversity as a threat, it means that the Ministry of Education does not support gender diversity. If even the Ministry of Education is like this, how could there be gender equality in schools?” said the group.
The statue of King Vajiravudh wrapped with a rainbow Pride flag
The group faced some obstacles before the beginning of the event. After group representatives met in front of the Ministry at 15.45, Ministry security personnel closed the gates, preventing the rest of their team from entering the Ministry grounds. Around 15 minutes later, around 20 uniformed police officers from Dusit Police Station began lining up in front of the Ministry.
Dusit Police Station Superintendent Pol Col Jatuphon Phonphakdi came to negotiate with the group and asked them to take their activities outside, telling them that they have to ask for permission before organizing an event on Ministry grounds. A representative of the group said that they have already communicated with Education Minister Trinuch Thienthong, who allowed the gates to be open. However, a Ministry official said that the group is still not allowed to hold their event inside the Ministry.
A participant was arrested after wrapping the statue of King Vajiravudh with a Pride flag (Picture by Kan Sangtong)
After the group refused to leave, Pol Col Jatuphon threatened them with legal prosecution. Meanwhile, plainclothes officers took pictures of the participants. They were finally allowed to stage their performance after they spoke to the Education Permanent Secretary, who allowed them to stay on the Ministry grounds until 18.30.
The event concluded at 18.45, while around 10 police officers were still surrounding King Vajiravudh’s statue.