THAILAND Bullying, the dark side of the country of smiles

The suicide of a 15-year-old girl in a town in the province of Chachoengsao revived reflection in the country on a phenomenon that, according to surveys, affects up to 600,000 students. An educational system that is still too complicit in practices of arbitrary submission or abuse is accused.

Bangkok () – In all likelihood it was the bullying she suffered in class that led a 15-year-old girl from a village in the province of Chachoengsao to commit suicide. She hanged herself in her house, leaving a message in which she confirmed the uncomfortable situation to which she was subjected and the depressive state that led her to the extreme gesture. Her story reignited the debate on bullying in Thailand, a widespread phenomenon that many continue to see as part of an educational process, of growth, and not of arbitrary submission and abuse. In a certain way, it is the school structures themselves that promote unquestioning obedience to the “good customs of the past”, today many times contrary to educational objectives and to the same regulations that should protect the development and autonomy of students.

This is not uncommon, given that four years ago a survey by the Department of Mental Health found that the Land of Smiles was home to as many as 600,000 student victims of various forms of bullying, the second highest number in the world. This was later confirmed by a statistical study collected and prepared two years ago by the Network of Legal Advocates for Children and Youth. The data, released during a symposium organized by the Thai Foundation for Health Promotion, clearly indicated the prevalence of bullying in classrooms, as 92% of Thai students surveyed had experienced some type of bullying from their peers. and 30% through social networks. The consequences are harsh: 28% of the victims claimed to feel more withdrawn or depressed, 26% experienced various levels of stress, 18% complained of lack of concentration and 16% would have preferred not to attend class.

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

Various studies pointed to the patriarchal culture as the basis of bullying, which not infrequently manifests itself among male adolescents with physical confrontations between individuals or gangs. Among women the phenomenon is more widespread, but it is usually lived in tolerance and silence, according to the traditional vision. Until the pressure or guilt becomes unbearable. It is no coincidence that while in Thailand it is mostly men who commit suicide, the majority of those who attempt it are women.

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