Thanalop ‘Yok’ Phalanchai, a 15-year-old political activist, recently made headlines when she was expelled from Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakarn School in Bangkok for allegedly failing to complete her enrollment process on time. Despite this setback, she bravely returned to the school on Monday, asserting her right to an education and challenging the strict dress codes and traditional school ceremonies.
As she entered the school grounds, no one stood in Yok’s way, even though the school was surrounded by policewomen who were tasked with maintaining order. With her iconic dyed hair and casual attire, she defied school regulations and claimed that her enrollment process had been completed a month prior. She argued that the school’s management statement, which declared her enrollment “incomplete,” was false.
Yok argued for her right to choose what to wear and how to style her hair, criticizing the school’s traditional attire requirements as a form of authoritarianism. However, she said that if all the students at the school agreed on a uniform, she would be willing to comply.
Interestingly, the Move Forward Party, which has opposed school uniform regulations and hairstyle rules in the past, did not initially support Yok’s cause. The party only released a statement of support after she had gone through the trouble of climbing fences to attend her classes.
At the same time, at least 50 student networks issued a joint declaration, demanding increased freedom regarding school dress codes and hairstyles. This declaration, published on the Thammasat Rangsit Student Council Facebook page, called for schools and universities to respect students’ rights to make decisions about their own bodies, as guaranteed by the constitution.
Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakarn School defended its decision to expel Yok, stating that her parents failed to show up on enrollment day. The school also argued that Yok’s misconduct posed a threat to the safety and well-being of fellow students, staff, and school property.
Yok’s actions have captured the attention of the public and generated a lively debate about the role of traditional school regulations in a modern society. While the outcome of this case remains uncertain, it has certainly provided fuel for a much-needed conversation about the need for progressive change in educational institutions, empowering students to express their individuality without fear of reprisal.