To the editor:
As someone with more than a passing acquaintance with Thai educational
institutions, I would like to offer the following comments on the article
regarding Payap University’s institution of a new military camp as a
substitute for traditional initiation activities for freshmen.
Given the strong hierarchical structure of Payap, it is
laudable that they would like to modify traditionally oppressive forms of
freshman initiation. However, I was disappointed that their choice of
substitution was a military camp in which students would learn
“discipline, sacrifice, and respect [for] senior students, under military
The kind of respect I believe is needed in the
increasingly complicated world we now face is not one based on seniority.
Students, as future leaders and citizens (not consumers, as citizens are now
referred to in the media) would do well to explore alternative forms of
interrelatedness. Much research has now been written on partnership and
non-dominant forms of social structure. Why not have students read and
discuss these ideas?
In a highly seniority-based culture like Thailand, Payap
would be more applauded if they focused on having their students at
different levels in university learn how to relate to each other from true
respect that comes from honoring the best in everyone, instead of just a
simplistic goal of “respect senior students.” If programs were focused
upon open discussion and understanding, instead of physical military camp
activities, there would be no need for training to be “adjusted to be
suitable for women.”
It is this blind obedience to hierarchy, reinforcing
dominance and oppression that lies at the root of Thailand’s problems with
racisms and sexism. I’m afraid Payap has lost, yet again, another
opportunity to educate students for a, hopefully better, new world.