The junta cabinet has approved bills to privatise two prominent state universities, saying that there is no need to ask students since the bills were proposed by the universities and many other universities have already undergone the same process.
According to Khaosodonline, Education Minister Adm Narong Pittatanasai said on Tuesday that the cabinet approved the bills to privatise Thammasat University, Thailand’s second oldest tertiary education institute, and Khon Kaen University, the oldest and largest public university in northeastern Thailand.
The bills will be submitted to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) for deliberation.
The bills will transform the two institutions from public institutions to institutions under state supervision. Once privatised, universities will be freed to manage their own income, to hire personnel, or even to invest.
The banner against university privatisation at Kasetsart University was seen hanging in its Bangkok’s Campus on 5 March 2015. The message reads ‘The university is going to be privatised # [I] cry heavily’.
Gen Narong reasoned that the privatisation process will increase the efficiency of the universities’ administrative systems.
When asked if the plan to privatise the two institutions needed to be discussed with students, he said that there is no need to do so since this is not the first time that state universities have been privatised.
Gen Narong added that there has not been any opposition regarding the plan so far.
Last week, the cabinet also approved bills to privatise two other public universities, Kasetsart University and Suan Dusit Rajabhat University. These bills are pending deliberation by the NLA.
Another similar banner against university privatisation was hanged in front of Khon Kaen University’s gate on 5 March 2014. The message reads ‘Writing, drafting [the bill], and raising hands [to support the bill] by yourself, the NLA dean # [I] cry heavily’.
Despite the Education Ministry’s claim that there has been no opposition to the plan, Sri Nontri, a student group from Kasetsart University, last Thursday hung banners around the Bangkok Campus of Kasetsart University to show opposition to the proposal.
Similar banners and placards against privatisation could be seen around Khon Kaen University on the same day.
Plans to privatise public universities have been proposed under many civilian administrations. But the plans were often dropped due to popular public disapproval led mostly by student groups. After the coup d’état in 2006, however, as many as seven leading universities in Thailand, including Chulalongkorn University, the oldest university in the country, and Mahidol University, were hastily privatised in 2007-2008 by an unelected legislature.