Online, some netizens are calling for the students to be expelled.
After they were accepted to university, some male students who would soon be part of the Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn received an invitation to join a Line chat group specifically for men. What started off as a casual conversation mushroomed into a secret chatroom where some male students rated female students’ profile pictures and made sexual remarks about their bodies.
These men, as well as the pre-law program they were admitted to, are now being raked over the coals for taking a casual view of sexual harassment, and their case is shedding new light on Thailand’s history of misogyny.
“I want to take a part-time job at a student uniform shop so I can measure women students’ body sizes,” wrote one male student in the LAWMEN Line group, which was exposed online over the weekend by Twitter user @adoretherealme.
The chat group didn’t target just women from the Faculty of Law. According to leaked messages, female students from other faculties, including Arts, Communication Arts, and Business Administration, also fell victim to the group’s online sexual harassment.
When the secret group came to light, many netizens urged the law school to take immediate action. Assistant Professor Pareena Supjariyavatr, the dean of the Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn University, wrote a public statement in response to the issue and posted it on her Facebook account at 2:20am this morning.
Writing in Thai, she said: “We are terribly sorry for any students who fell victim to the intolerable actions committed by our prospective students. Our faculty will take immediate measures to investigate the issue.”
Calls to the Faculty of Law for comment went unanswered.
“You don’t have to wait until you become law students to understand this issue,” wrote Thitinant Tengaumnuay, a law lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, in a translated post on her personal Facebook account. “Sexual harassment and violation of personal privacy are a breach of human standards… we should treat others as human, not sexual objects. This kind of behavior should not be overlooked. It’s not funny. It puts other male students in our faculty in a negative light.”
The revelations have prompted student councils from other faculties to condemn the law students’ actions. The public statement from the Student Council of Communication Arts, however, has met with criticism from Thanaporn “Kwan” Saleephol, who revealed that the Faculty of Communication Arts at Chulalongkorn University took no action for past sexual harassment occurring under its own roof.
On what was dubbed “GentleMen Night,” male senior students would gather straight freshmen to rate female students in their faculty by their looks and even force LGBT members to come out without their consent.
In response to Thanaporn’s post, the Communication Arts Student Association has replied to her with a public apology, claiming that this ritual was removed from student activities in 2020.
“Thai students are often left in the dark. There are no clear guidelines on what students should do when they are faced with sexual harassment or endure sexual assault, and this usually leaves them to resort to online platforms before universities take action,” Thanaporn told BK. “Proper remedial action and awareness campaigns need to be included in orientation programs to protect students and prevent future problems.”
Sexual harassment and hazing rituals at the university level remain commonplace in Thailand.
Meanwhile, protections in the workplace, under Section 16 of the Labor Protection Act, have only existed since 2008, and claims of abuse are still frequent.
Victim-blaming also runs rampant. In March 2018, a government official remarked that women should “not dress sexily” during Songkran to avoid sexual assault, sparking widespread backlash as well as activism against sexual harassment.
A 2019 YouGov poll revealed that one in five Thais had experienced sexual harassment, and men were almost as likely to experience harassment as women (18 percent to 23 percent).