Yet another worrying case of child abuse has come to light in a school where a kindergarten teacher attempted to saw off the ear of her 4-year-old student with a metal ruler. Earlier this year, another 4-year-old was physically abused by a teacher in a child care facility when it was revealed that the child had been tasered. These shocking cases are added to the long list of news stories, viral videos and personal Facebook photos showing the seemingly-standard use of corporal punishment and physical intimidation by Thai staff in schools throughout the nation.
The alleged incident took place on July 17, when it has been claimed that the teacher punished her student by trying to saw into his ear with a metal ruler. This happened inside the classroom during lesson time, where all the students who were present have offered the same story to the school’s director, Praewnapha Thamniamton. The teacher has insisted that she is innocent despite her students’ story contradicting her claims.
The director revealed to the media that the teacher had been accused of violent behaviour towards young children in the past, but that the only action taken against her was in the form of probation and some verbal warnings. “The teacher promised us she would not do such thing again,” said Praewnapha. But the parents of the child are understandably upset, saying that their child had to receive five stitches in the cut behind his ear. A photo of the injury can be seen at Khaosod.
Corporal punishment is illegal in Thailand under the Child Protection Act, and yet many share the view that it is commonplace in Thai schools and even in kindergartens. The law states: “Any school employee who hits a child should be immediately dismissed and be subject to review of their professional licence.” However, many schools tend to overlook teachers’ inappropriate punishments of their students, and in the past, extreme abuses have been reported with little or no retribution for the attackers. For example, just a year ago a 16-year-old student was severely beaten up by the deputy director of his school for wearing shoes that violated the school’s dress code, and since then, there has been no news of justice for the victim.
Videos of students receiving physical punishment for small and sometimes silly violations like the one above is not a rare occurrence, with one video by the Youtube user Exposed Traveller showing students being caned for uniform violations in a Thai school. The video has received almost 94,000 views. Despite caning being illegal in the country, many commenters expressed positive feedback after watching the video, saying that when they were young they were hit much harder, and that the students even seemed to be enjoying themselves. It is views like these that keep corporal punishment as a standard among those who are given the responsibility of protecting and nurturing Thailand’s youth.
UNICEF Thailand has stated in the past, “No child should ever be subjected to physical punishment at school.” They also said that violent forms of punishment are “still used in far too many schools around the country.” According to the organization, much more needs to be done for teachers to obey prohibitions on corporal punishment in Thai schools, and that the law needs to be strictly enforced and teachers trained to be tolerant and aware of alternative methods of discipline.
A blog called Thai Teachersexposes cases of corporal punishment and abuse by teachers in Thai schools in many different provinces. The site names and shames Thai teachers who have been accused of abuse by displaying their pictures and detailing what they have done to deserve admonishment, often calling for their suspension and/or arrest for their illegal acts. The latest blog post shows a video filmed by a student where the teacher in his or her classroom is beating another student as he stands facing the wall. The video is one of many that has gone public that depicts acts of violence carried out by teachers against their students, and yet there is still a general consensus among Thai netizens that corporal punishment is an acceptable form of shaping children’s behaviour.
One opinion piece on Matador Network shares the sentiment that Thai schoolchildren don’t show teachers respect unless they receive corporal punishment, because they have been conditioned by its use in relation to their education. The author elaborates this standard by saying, “By Western standards, it is abuse; by Thai standards, it is fundamentally necessary, expected.”