Boycotting feudal royals

14 01 2022

A couple of days ago, Prachatai reported that the Chiang Mai University Student Union had announced “that its representatives will not receive members of the royal family at the university’s graduation ceremonies during the current committee’s term in order to uphold equality.”

The graduation ceremony for the classes of 2019 and 2020, which was held on Friday 14 January 2022, presided over by Princess Sirindhorn, usually framed as the most popular among the odd family of royals.

The report explains the ceremonies:

Thai graduation ceremonies are often long, complicated, and strictly regulated as they are presided over by a member of the royal family. Student representatives at many universities are required to wait to receive the member of the royal family arriving to preside over the ceremony. Universities also impose strict dress codes on graduates, specifying even hair colour and nail polish colour, while many transgender students face obstacles in getting permission from university administrations to dress according to their gender identity. Attending the ceremony also costs graduates and their families a large sum of money, including the cost of the graduation gown, hiring a photographer, and travel costs for those who live in distant provinces.

The Student Union explained that it would:

not send representatives to receive Princess Sirindhorn as she arrives for the ceremony, and that it will not receive any member of the royal family at any graduation ceremony which takes place during the current committee’s term, as receiving members of the royal family would show support for “feudalism” [sakdina] and because they see the reception ceremony as a form of oppression and inequality. It also calls on other faculty unions to boycott the reception ceremony.

The union viewed “the ceremony as oppressive, outdated, and a way of normalizing inequality. Boycotting the ceremony would therefore be a way of upholding equality and human rights.”

Along with the 2020 – 2021 pro-democracy/monarchy reform protests, “graduation ceremonies have become a platform for young people to express their discontent at the status quo. Many graduates see boycotting the ceremonies as an act of civil disobedience, while activists are reported to have staged small activities at their universities’ graduation events.”

At a Khon Kaen University graduation on 13 December 2021, students and graduates hung banners reading “Free our friends” and “Repeal Section 112. ” They gave speeches “criticizing the university and its Faculty of Law for not taking action when its students were detained on political charges.” Student activist Sarayut Narkmanee:

gave a speech saying that for the 2021 ceremony, which was presided over by Princess Sirindhorn, the university designated a wider than usual area as royal space, which pushed people off campus. He also said that students don’t graduate because they are handed a degree, that graduation should be for the people, and a graduation gown is created by the authorities and so is not necessary. He then burned a graduation gown in an act of protest.

At the Chiang Mai event, “two student activists were arrested … [on] 14 January … while holding banners near the Chiang Mai University … auditorium calling for graduates to boycott the graduation ceremony … and for the repeal of Section 112.”:

CMU student activist Yotsunthon Ruttapradid and Phimchanok Jaihong, member of the activist group Thalufah, were arrested this morning (14 January) by plainclothes and uniformed police officers while standing on the foothpath opposite the university auditorium, where a graduation ceremony was being held. They were reported to be holding banners saying “Repeal Section 112” and “Feudal degrees” in a campaign for the repeal of the royal defamation law and to call on graduates to boycott the ceremony, presided over by Princess Sirindhorn, the King’s younger sister….

The activists were charged with creating a noise without a reasonable cause and refusing to comply with an official’s order. They received a 1500 baht fine and were released. Officers reportedly said that they were able to charge the activists with causing noise while on campus because the campus was considered royal space during the ceremony.

Social media reports that only about 40% of graduates showed up for the royal ceremony.


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2 responses

19 01 2022
Royalist ratbag politics | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] few days ago, Thai Enquirer reported on royalists responding to the wave of graduates rejecting royal graduation […]

29 01 2022
On graduation boycotts | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Guardian has taken notice of the boycotts of royals at graduation ceremonies: “a growing number of young Thais who are refusing to attend their […]

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