01/24/2023, 11.20
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Bullying, the dark side of the land of smiles

by Steve Suwannarat

The suicide of a 15-year-old girl in a village in the province of Chachoengsao has kindled debate in the country on a phenomenon that, according to surveys, affects as many as 600 thousand students. An education system that is still too conniving with practices of arbitrary submission or abuse is under indictment. 

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - In all likelihood it was bullying in the classroom that led the 15-year-old girl in a village in Chachoengsao province to commit suicide. She hanged herself at home, leaving a message confirming the unbearable situation she was subjected to and the depressive state that drove her to the extreme gesture.

Her story has reignited the debate in Thailand on school bullying, a widespread phenomenon still seen by many as part of an educational process, of growth, rather than of arbitrary subjugation and abuse.

In a way, it is the school structures themselves that promote obedience without question to the 'good rules of the past', often today contrary to the educational goals and the very regulations that should protect students' development and autonomy.

The condition is not uncommon, given that four years ago a survey by the Department of Mental Health had found that the Land of Smiles was home to as many as 600,000 students who were victims of bullying, the second highest number in the world.

This was later confirmed by a statistical survey collected and compiled two years ago by the Network of Legal Advocates for Children and Youth. Disseminated during a symposium organised by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, the data had clearly indicated the penetration of bullying in classrooms, as 92% of the Thai students surveyed had allegedly been bullied in some form by peers and 30% through social networks.

The consequences were severe: 28% of the victims said they felt more introverted or depressed, 26% experienced varying levels of stress, 18% complained of poor concentration, and 16% would rather not attend class.

The coordinator of the survey, Athiwat Niammeesee, urged the Ministry of Education to take the problem seriously and to promote a culture of safety both at school and in the family.

Several studies have pointed to patriarchal culture as the basis of bullying, which not infrequently manifests itself among male adolescents with physical confrontations between individuals or gangs. Among females, the phenomenon, although more widespread, is often experienced in forbearance and silence, in accordance with the traditional view.

Until the pressure or guilt becomes unbearable. It is no coincidence that while in Thailand it is mainly men who commit suicide, women make up the majority of those who attempt it.

Photo: Flickr / Antjeverena

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