Government support for educational public organizations may be scrapped

A rumour that the Thai military government will withdraw support for several publicly-funded educational organisations has caused a stir on social media.

On Monday, 9 November 2015, Duangrit Bunnag, a well-known Thai architect, posted a message on Facebook that it has been confirmed that the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday will discuss a plan to withdraw support for leading public educational organisations under the Office of Knowledge Management and Development (OKMD).

The three OKDM organisations in the list are the Thailand Creative and Design Centre (TCDC)Thailand Knowledge Park (TK Park), and the National Discovery Museum Institute: NDMI (the organisation which runs Museum Siam).

“It has been confirmed that our military government will propose to the cabinet tomorrow to do away with TCDC and OKMD, the public agency which manages it. Let’s hope that someone in the cabinet with wisdom will help us,” wrote Duangrit on Facebook.

Many supporters of the three organisations quickly shared Duangrit’s Facebook post online.

One commentator wrote “If the young are smart, the nation will eventually develop; are they [the government] afraid of that?”

Another wrote “They [the government] might fear that people will get too intelligent and become immune to being brainwashed.”   

Activities organised by TCDC (courtesy of TCDC's Facebook page)

The architect told Prachatai that he heard about the proposal from credible sources, adding that the government cited ‘inefficiency’ as a reason behind the proposal.

He said that in fact many other public organisations are worse than OKMD when it comes to inefficiency and questioned what kind of criteria the authorities used to assess the organisation because TCDC receives a top mark in the annual assessment of public enterprises nearly every year whereas TK Park and Museum Siam usually get medium scores.

He stated that the three agencies have been active in promoting ‘creative thinking’ among Thai youth and urged the government to think of the future because the national economy needs innovation and technology to sustain it, when manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture are ailing.

“We spend billions of baht on other ludicrous things. The annual budget allocated to the south [the restive Deep South] is about 20 billion baht,” Duangrit told Prachatai. “We complain that we want to make Thai youth smart and [allow them to] have a good education and there are some things which seem to serve these purposes, but then they [the government] say that it’s a waste of money.”

According to Matichon OnlineParit Chiwarak, aka Penguin, a student activist who is currently general secretary of Education for Liberation of Siam (ELS), also wrote a letter to Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, regarding the rumour.

He said that TK Park and Museum Siam are knowledge centres that encourage youth to think outside the box and pursue knowledge outside the formal schooling system, which are very important for the nation’s future.

“If these knowledge centres outside schools are gone, which directions will our educational system take?” wrote Parit in his letter.