Saran Chuchai aka Aum Neko is a twenty year old transgender student who has been so angered by Thammasat University insisting she wear a male uniform for her ID card photo she launched a poster campaign featuring her in racy poses.
She is one of many transgender students who are becoming increasingly vocal over their rights and some have seen considerable success in their plight. Where some universities are very conservative others have gone so far as to install ‘ladyboy’ toilets.
Saran argues that uniforms in Thai society are about re-enforcing the roles of elites and subordinates in Thai society and she has used slogans such as “Did you wear your uniform last mid-term test”, “free humanity” and “does a uniform make sex better” on her racy poster campaigns.
She said “My campaign creates a chance for people who do not want to wear a university uniform, many people misunderstand what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to get rid of all uniforms in Thailand such as those worn by the police, soldiers and nurses or even those worn in schools and universities. We won’t force anybody to stop wearing a uniform if they feel appreciated and proud to wear it. We have no right to stop them and we can’t change their thoughts. What we are doing is asking the university to accommodate a group that does not want to be controlled by the power of a uniform”.
However second year art student Neko’s high profile seemingly worked against her when a presenter from Best of your Life TV filed a police complaint against her, although allegedly this does not relate to the uniform issue, but rather some of the more controversial comments she made on the presenters show that contravened the lese majeste laws.
Many believe that the protest will never really take off. The newspaper Matichon reported that 94% of students think that wearing a uniform is necessary to maintain order and at the Rangsit and Tha Phra chan campuses of the faculty of commerce of accountancy signs were hung by administration staff that said “no uniform, no service”.
However, on student web forums gossip is spreading that Somkit Lertpaithoon university rector was steering towards a more conservative agenda. Prior to joining the university in 2010 Lertpaithoon was involved in the Constitution Drafting Assemby set up after the 2006 military coup that removed the then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Mr Somkit came under fire from the Pheu Thai Party in early 2012 when he forbade the Nitirat (Enlightened Jurists) group from holding a forum on constitutional reform on campus. He argued that he did not want the university to be seen to be supporting any group and said he was concerned about violence on campus.
In the current dispute, Mr Somkit publicly insisted Thammasat students were not required to wear a uniform, although he said it was ”encouraged” during exams and to show discipline in preparation for entering the workforce.
However on his Facebook page he said he disagreed with the anti-uniform campaign and said the university motto was being used by one person to do whatever they wanted at Thammasat. “Those people have completely forgotten that helping people is the real ideology of the university” he wrote.
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