Khon Kaen students oppose junta’s university privatisation plan

Students of the largest university in Thailand’s Northeast put up banners against the junta’s university privatisation plan.   

About 10 students of Khon Kaen University of the northeastern at around 4pm on Thursday held banners with messages reading “Opposing university privatisation = Opposing the coup d’état” and “President + National Legislative Assembly (NLA) + coup d’état = university privatisation” in front of the Food and Service Centre on the university campus.

The students holding the banners also invited other students to join the movement against the university privatisation plan.

According to Panupong Sritananuwat, one of the students who participated in the activity, the proposal to privatise Khon Kaen University is unjust.

Four student holds banners reading “Opposing university privatisation = Opposing the coup d’état” in front of the Food and Service Centre of Khon Kaen University on 9 April 2015.

“We must state our stand that we are still against the privatisation of Khon Kaen University by the President [who is also] a member of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) who himself drafted, proposed, and raised his hand [to support the university privatisation bill] in parliament, which is very unjust for Khon Kaen university’s students.” said Panupong.

He added “We will continue to hold symbolic activities in order to capture public attention and encourage students who oppose university privatisation, but who have not yet taken a stand to come and join the opposition against the privatisation of Khon Kaen University. If the students don’t fight for their own universities, then who will?”

In early March, Education Minister Adm Narong Pittatanasai announced that the cabinet had approved 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.

Students opposing the privatisation plan of Khon Kaen University hold banners reading “President + National Legislative Assembly (NLA) + coup d’état = university privatisation” on the university campus on 9 April 2015.    

The bills will transform the two universities from public institutions to institutions under state supervision. Once privatised, universities will be free to manage their own income, to hire personnel, or even to invest.

Previously, 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.