The Wai Khru ceremony has been described by many young Thais as an ugly relic that is out of place in modern times. But others, including many older Thais and foreign visitors, view it as a charming and essential facet of Thai culture.
The annual ritual — in which students pay homage by prostrating themselves at their teachers’ feet — takes place in schools, colleges and universities throughout Thailand on any Thursday in May or June, at the beginning of the first school semester.
For many people, the practice is a remnant of the Kingdom’s feudal era and deserves to be stamped out.
The student union of Ubon Ratchathani University recently announced it had banned self-prostration at the Wai Khru ceremony. Students could instead show gratitude to their teachers with a “wai”, placing their palms together at chest level, it added.
In a Facebook statement, the student union said, “Everyone deserves equality and mutual respect. Self-prostration reflects [the heritage of] Thailand’s vassal and slavery systems.”
The move led to a heated debate on social media between netizens who back the decades-old practice and those who denounce it. Many supporters of the tradition shared photos of Wai Khru ceremonies at international schools in Thailand.
Social media users who identified themselves as foreign teachers in Thailand also joined the debate, with a few even confessing they were moved to tears by the display of deep respect from their students.
Published : July 01, 2022