Corporal Punishment in Thailand

The Sunday Telegraph reported that a student protest group called Bad Student piled bamboo canes in front of Thailand’s ministry of education and splashed red paint on it to protest against corporal punishment last week.
The students want investment in schools, and an end to the military influence and rigid hierarchies that continue to dominate classrooms, stifling freedom of expression. Bad Students has shone a spotlight on abusive behaviour by teachers – from the use of humiliating punishments such as cutting students’ hair if it is considered inappropriate, to the continued use of corporal punishment, despite it being banned.

From the various videos available, the Thai style of caning in the standing position never looks particularly effective but no doubt recipients would say otherwise.

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Adherence to the law on SCP in Thailand’s schools seems to have been a problem for some time.  There used to be a protest site on the web which was regularly trawled by those collecting surreptitiously shot  videos of actual SCP.  However not all the offerings were shot in Thailand.  A rather grim video which impressed me as somewhat severe SCP, schoolgirls in the Republic of Korea  being required to climb up on their desks and sit back on their heels to be caned on the fronts of their thighs, first surfaced on that site I believe.

I cannot locate  that site now, but there are lots of web references to the canes and paint demonstration that you mention.  The page here gives an interesting insight into how SCP works in Thai schools.

Apparently in Thailand the appearance in class of a teacher  known to be nifty with their chosen punitive implement and overly inclined to use it has very much the same effect on otherwise generally over-excitable and disruptive Thai youngsters as the appearance of mass leg smacking exponent Miss B, reputed to harden her smacking hand by nightly immersion in alcohol or vinegar, used to have in my primary school!

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It seems that despite the deficiencies of the current incumbent as compared with his father culturally the monarchy is sacred in Thailand.  You do not insult the monarchy, full stop.  Is that a human rights issue?  I’m not sure, but then I don’t think SCP is a human rights issue either, just something best abandoned in today’s world.

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Human rights or political rights or civil liberties, I’m not sure that the label is important. I’d measure it broadly against the sort of case which Amnesty takes up, and I’m pretty sure this would qualify.  It’s deeply concerning – perhaps all the more so since Thailand is a country which, post-Covid, will once again fill up with Western tourists.

I personally don’t regard school corporal punishment as a human rights issue, but it suits opponents of SCP very well to characterise it as such.  I align somewhat with what is think is your own position, that corporal punishment now belongs to a past age; but I qualify that view with a sort of “I wouldn’t start from here” view. I think that corporal punishment might, in a parallel world, have been retained, with any excesses and abuses of the past eliminated, and it would still have some limited usefulness. But the agenda was hijacked by a smallish number of vocal opponents.

As for human rights, I’d say young people have a right to a safe, secure school environment; to fair treatment including always the right to be heard; to consistency in standards and discipline; and – greatly daring – to adults working with them who set rules and boundaries, and who impose fair sanctions when they are overstepped, and whose authority comes not from big sticks or loud voices but from the simple fact that they have been on the planet a little longer than 13-year-olds. Ah, Utopia isn’t what it used to be….

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I think that we are of much the same mind on both issues.

For completeness here is the Reuters report on the 43 year sentence on the 65 year old Thai woman that you instanced.  Originally an 87 year sentence apparently, but the court halved it because she admitted the charges.  Now there’s generosity!

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the monarchy is sacred to some in thialand, most specifically the military junta and its successor state but hardly to everyone… the reason its being enforced so viciously isn’t because its unthinkable to criticize the monarchy but the exact opposite because its is becoming very very thinkable

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Interesting side discussion on human rights. Democracy and freedom are sparse and fragile in this part of the world. Legal systems are widely subject to political influence. There are significant human rights issues in all the countries of SE Asia. Of course no country is immune – I found it an interesting and educational experience being grilled on Australia’s treatment of its indigenous people by an English class in Surabaya in 1986.

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Dr Heinz Kiosk (anyone out there remember? ?) was right.  We are all guilty.  And certainly as you observe I doubt there’s a nation on earth which can claim not to have perpetrated some sort of human rights abuse within the lifetime of some of its present inhabitants.

But human rights abuse is relative.  If you are relatively powerless Thailand the world can tut-tut and point the finger of shame at you with impunity.  But if you are the USA or the UK then it’s not us mate, we do the accusing, thank you very much!  We’re whiter than white when it comes to that sort of thing!    But of course we’re not, and never have been.  We’re just big enough and powerful enough to face down anybody who says our behaviour isn’t exemplary.

Just to pick one example recently highlighted in this very Forum.  The boy and girl caned in ‘The Leaving of Liverpool’ video clips were forcibly exported to the former colonies without their consent.  Clearly the kids in the video were fictitious, but they had thousands of real contemporaries.  The arrangement was highly advantageous for the nations concerned.  The kids were prevented from becoming a temporary burden on the British tax payer and the former colonies got much needed new and (whisper it) largely white young immigrants to boost their economies in due course.

But some of the children suffered atrociously on both sides of the oceans.  There are far worse things than being caned, and many of those children experienced them.