By David Bang
In Bangkok and across the provinces, university and high school students organize demonstrations weekly. They flash the defiant three-finger salute, display the white ribbon of democracy, and make various demands, all of which boil down to one thing: an end to fascism in school and the government.
In a nutshell, they are fighting for freedom, human rights, and democracy.
In this article, we talk to five international school students who support the pro-democracy movement and ask them to explain why many young people among the upper class remain apathetic.
P is a 17-year-old senior. He explained why many young people of the upper class are apathetic to the current political situation.
“As people who are better off, we don’t need these [human] rights as much. We’re willing to trade them for security because the people who generally are fucked over are people who are poor.”
“The incentive to listen to our parents is much higher because there’s no active threat to our rights or our comfortability within the country.”
He then discussed the changes taking effect among many international school students.
“We can see to a certain extent that we have bowed down to apathy. That we’d rather focus on our personal security rather than others’. But at this point, I think the global scale effects of what exactly the Thailand regime has done has affected everyone. And it’s clear that everybody cares about this. There’re international students who have been participating within the protests themselves. There have been organizations created by international students to focus on what’s happening in the status quo.”
“At this point, the youth as a whole recognize that change is needed.”
Oak is a 17-year-old senior. She explained that apathy is because international school students do not suffer under the same draconian rules as those in Thai schools.
“Thai school girls have short hair to a certain length and have to wear a certain bow, and a lot of the students don’t agree with that because it has nothing to do with education, but more of rules and telling people that they’re from the school, and just discipline in general.
Oak said international schools students don’t have to suffer through any of that.
She also discussed how international school students feel alienated from the rest of Thai society. She said a teacher told her that if she were to attend a Thai university, she would be considered a “dek inter” by other students and treated as an outsider.
“We’re like the outsiders. If international students were a part of the protests, I think it would make a difference, but it can go both ways. One: ‘Wow, even international students are involved. Wow, they’re actually smart!’ Which is kinda sad. And two: ‘Oh, you’re not a part of this, why are you here? You’re rich and all.’”
Natasha is a 15-year-old sophomore. She explained how international school students believe they would soon leave Thailand to study abroad. That their knowledge is international, not local, and so, what’s going on doesn’t affect them.
She, however, admitted, “But we should [care], honestly.”
Natasha said that she found out about the protests, not because of discussions in the school and by the teachers, but:
“Yea, I found out through TikTok. TikTok! And that’s how I learned about the hashtags.”
Tangkwa is a 15-year-old sophomore. She identified education as a reason behind being apathetic.
“The reason why Thai students are more into it is that they’ve been studying Thai history more than us. So they know more about the bad history of the government and how it’s been treating the Thai people badly.”
Tangkwa explained that going to an international school shields her and others from direct exposure to local topics. Not everyone is invested in watching the news, even fewer talk about current events with family or friends, and the school almost definitely does not give insight into Thailand’s situation.
Arm is a 17-year-old senior. She explained how the upper-class are not affected, and therefore the apathetic mindset.
“It’s because you’ll study in some other country, and there’s a high possibility you’ll work outside of Thailand. So then, you don’t live by this government’s law.”
When asked if she would join the protestors, Arm said, “My mom encourages me to go. She’s also scared for my health and safety, but she’s like, ‘If you really want to go, then I can go too.’”