CU defends its handling of Netiwit’s case

Chulalongkorn University (CU) on Wednesday (Sept 6) issued a statement to clarify its decision to remove student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal as the president of student council of the university over his improper conduct during the oath-taking ceremony of first-year students held on the campus on Aug 3.

The clarification was in response to widespread criticism in the local and foreign media against the university’s decision to take disciplinary action against Mr Netiwit and three other members of the CU student council.

The CU assured that it had adhered to the procedure and normal regulation in its consideration of the disciplinary actions toward Mr Netiwit and three other students.

Also, the consideration procedure was independent and it was applied to other cases. Any students who were not happy with the decision could appeal in the next step, the statement read.

Regarding the criticism that the university is not open to differing opinions and its embrace of conservatism, the CU defended that it respects differing opinions and is ready to accept differences.

Students have the right to participate or refuse to participate in activities on the campus, citing the oath-taking ceremony which has been going on since 1997 for first-year students to pay respect in front of the statues of King Chulalongkorn and King Rama VI , founders of the university.

Regarding prostrating, the university explained that this form of paying respect to the statues of the two kings has been in practice continuously and the organizers of the oath-taking ceremony has arranged for a separate space for students who wanted to show respect by just bowing instead of prostrating and this was acknowledged by all the students who participated in the ceremony.

However, the student and his group chose to cause disturbance at the ceremony by walking out of the space designated for them. They bowed in a symbolic show while the other students, numbering in thousands, prostrated, according to the statement.

While recognizing the right of free expressions of Mr Netiwit and his colleagues, the CU said the other people have the right to demand that the such free expression must not violate their right and beliefs particularly if that expression affects the sanctity, sensitivity and hurts the feeling of the other people who were taking an oath.

Regarding the conduct of the assistant rector for student affairs who headlocked a student in Mr Netiwit’s group out of the ceremonial ground, the university admitted that the incident was regretable and shameful.

However, it defended that the lecturer’s conduct had nothing to do with the university’s policy and he had already resigned as assistant rector. The lecturer is facing disciplinary probe for his action.

Chulalongkorn University has a long history of bondage with the Monarchy and this belief and traditional practice has been inherited from generation to generation. This may be hard to understand for people who embrace western liberalism. The university supports liberalism and free expressions, but our institute has its own culture. It is our mission to ensure that our students respect the institute’s cultural practice and freedom and thoughts of the other people.

The CU said it does not expect western media to approve its decision and its handling of this case, but we wish they understand the university’s stand point.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)


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