Thailand’s government is instituting new measures in schools aimed at building obedience to the country’s monarchy and military rulers. The move to add patriotic propaganda to school curriculums has raised the ire of government critics, who say that the measures entrench the military government’s authoritarianism and further challenge the country’s educational system, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.
The “Twelve Values” campaign instituted at the beginning of the school year in November builds on the existing system of patriotic displays in school, which include the daily affirmation of loyalty to Thailand’s 87-year-old king, Bhumibol Adulyadej. Under the new curriculum, students will also have to recite a mantra, pledging to “adore the nation, religion and His Majesty the King,” as well as to work for “the nation’s benefit rather than one’s own.”
The new measure comes amid escalating concerns about authoritarianism in Thailand. Since the country’s May 22 coup, which saw the ousting of a democratically elected civilian government, Thailand’s military rulers have been accused of widespread human rights violations, including a crackdown on free speech. Five Thai students were detained last month after flashing the three-fingered salute inspired by the Hunger Games movies-- a symbol that has become associated with anti-military protests in May, according to the BBC.
The military government has made a reform of Thailand’s underperforming education system a priority since coming to power. Thailand ranks last among the eight ASEAN nations in the most recent World Economic Forum report and comes in at 54th place out of 56 in English language proficiency, reported Asian Correspondent.
This situation makes the government’s new measures even more disappointing, according to critics. “It does not suit the 21st century education to force every student to believe the same values,” one student campaigner said on social media according to the AFP. “You can't live in a society that has the same robots that are programmed with the same software.”