Military staff have joined the orientation of a prestigious primary school, but online criticism seems to have led to removal of all images from the school’s websites.
On 29 May 2017, the Facebook page and website of Prasarnmit Elementary Demonstration School in Bangkok posted a set of images of 3rd and 4th grade students assembled in lines listening to speeches from a group of military personnel at their orientation. All the relevant images were later removed from these sites.
The posts went viral and were shared many times on Facebook. Many Facebook users posted harsh comments criticising the event, saying it is an example of brainwashing children to support the junta.
Earlier in December 2016, the 1st Infantry Battalion of the 29th Army Regiment in Kanchanaburi Province welcomed a group of 180 kindergarten children and their teachers to participate in a ‘Homeland Defence Battalion’ programme, Matichon Online reported.
In the programme, children, wearing military uniforms, were shown military operations by soldiers who taught them patriotic values to love the nation, religions, and the Thai Monarchy through the controversial 12 Thai Values.
The military also showed the children farming techniques that followed the late King Bhumibol’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy.
According to Matichon, this was the second time that the Royal Thai Army has run the programme, adding that many more schools and kindergartens will join the programme in the future.
Two months after the coup d’état in May 2014, the Thai coup-makers set out a plan to reform Thailand’s education system, which is widely regarded as failing despite the considerable resources allocated to it. But rather than improve the quality of educators and other structural problems in the national curriculum, the junta promoted 12 nationalistic Thai values to the top of the new education reform agenda.
This kind of promotion of youth values through schools is not new to Thailand. Under the nationalistic regime of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram from 1938-1944, ten values for youth were promoted alongside other secular nationalistic values.
The so-called 12 traditional Thai values invented by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader, after the coup d’état in May are:
- Love for the nation, religions and monarchy
- Honesty, patience and good intentions for the public
- Gratitude to parents, guardians and teachers
- Perseverance in learning
- Conservation of Thai culture
- Morality and sharing with others
- Correct understanding of democracy with the monarch as head of the state
- Discipline and respect for the law and elders
- Awareness in thinking and doing things, and following the guidance of His Majesty the King
- Living by the sufficiency economy philosophy guided by His Majesty the King
- Physical and mental strength against greed
- Concern about the public and national good more than self-interest.
The orientation of 3rd and 4th year primary students at Prasarnmit Demonstration School in Bangkok on 29 May 2017
A page from the SWU Prasarnmit Elementary Demonstration School which was later removed.
Thai kindergarten children being taught how to throw a grenade to kill people at the 1st Infantry Battalion of the 29th Army Regiment in Kanchanaburi Province on 21 December 2016 (Photo from Prachaya Nongnuch's Facebook page)