A petition has appeared online in support of eight Chulalongkorn University students whose “behaviour scores” were reduced for perceived misbehaviour at the school’s annual oath-taking ceremony for freshmen.
The petition asking that the disciplinary action be rescinded has been signed by world-renowned scholars Noam Chomsky, Johan Galtung, Perry Link, Henry Hardy and Lawrence Krauss.
It says the students’ actions were “congruent with human rights principles” and urges the university to “respect the demonstration of different opinions as well as alternative forms of expression”.
It denounces the punishment as constraining freedom of expression.
Five of the eight students were members of the school’s Student Council, including prominent activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who’d served as Student Council president.
The reduction in their behaviour scores led to their dismissal from the council as being disqualified for membership.
The eight were sanctioned for failing to sit on the ground before statues of Kings Rama V and Rama VI during the ceremony, as is expected of students in a show of obeisance.
They instead remained standing and bowed to the monuments, prompting an irate lecturer to manhandle one of the students away from the scene.
University rector Bundhit Eua-Arporn later explained that a special area had been designated for students not wanting to sit on the ground to pay respect during the ceremony, but Netiwit and the other seven did not stay in the area as they’d promised to do.
The school established a committee to consider the incident and it was decided the students should be sanctioned.