Student’s Idea of Freedom of Expression Causes Moral Outrage and Gains Plaudits

 | Fri 13 Sep 2013 13:22 ICT

CityNews – After Thammast student, Aum Neko, released images of uniformed students in sexual postures Thailand’s press and social media has been fired up, in protest and support of what might be deemed “impolite” photographs apropos traditional Thai cultural tenets.

The posters, which are part of an ongoing campaign against the enforcement of uniforms and promoting freedom of expression in Thailand, are tagged with:

  • Top left: “At the last midterm did you still have to wear your student uniform?” 
  • Top right: “When student uniforms are being challenged.”
  • Bottom left: “Don’t student uniforms make having sex more fun?”
  • Bottom left: “Free your humanity from the shackles.”

For what many have not surprisingly called ‘unThai’ behaviour Aum Neko has been indicted by the traditional Thai public, but she has eloquently defended her actions in interviews.

In an interview translated into English for Pratachai Aum Neko explains:

I want to post a question to the Thammasat community and also communities outside: why does a university that prides itself on freedom force students to wear uniforms in many classes in many faculties?”

Asked about the sexual content of the posters she says:

“Sex, which is a social taboo, is having intercourse with this pure and pristine ideology of studenthood, of morality. It’s about power that doesn’t allow sex and power that controls morality—and that is the definition of the student uniforms.

Much of the criticism Aum – who is transgender and the female star of the posters – has faced says that the posters do not reflect Thai behavior, and by creating them she has tainted the reputation of a great university. 

Good Chayaphon, a singer form the KPN competition and a student at Thammasat university said:

“I am proud of my student uniform.You guys should respect the uniform, a symbol of Thammasat University. If you can’t do this and only ask for freedom with contempt, leave the uni and go and study somewhere else. Don’t come to the university if you don’t respect it. I am really mad about this. I don’t wear a uniform every day, but I am proud every time I do wear it.”

In response to criticism concerning Thammasart, its history and symbolism, Aum says:

It’s [identity] in respect for others’ freedom, adherence to democracy, and no support to any form of dictatorship, in particular coups d’état.

The main identity of Thammasat is the 24 June 1932 revolution. Then we had the first constitution on 27 June 1932. Next we had the establishment of Thammasat on 27 June 1934. Therefore, our stance should be preserving the constitution. But these days as it turns out the [university] management is preserving authoritarian power, even making us wear student uniforms; they are preserving the sacredness and power instead of rights and freedom according to the philosophy of the university.”

Perhaps these are signs of changing times in Thailand, the nascent rumbles of a cultural revolution. Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, interviewed here in the Bangkok Post recently, talks in a similar vein about the need to abolish uniforms in Thai universities. He has also come under much criticism from an old traditional power structure.