Born September 10, 1996 Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal is now a third year Political Science student at Chulalongkorn University. A former President of the University’s Student Council, he probably is the most notorious student to ever hold that position attracting the attention of none other than the Prime MInister Prayut Chan-o-cha who expressed his concern as to how it was that Netiwit had risen to assume this position.
He was the first sophomore to hold the position of leading the student body and one whose term was the most short lived — a mere two months– as a result of how he and seven other students staged a walk out from the University’s oath taking ceremony to express their disagreement with the existence of such a ritual. As a result he was punished by having his behavioral scores permanently cut and could never hold any other position in the University again. This sparked a public protest and outcry from as many as eight former recipients of the Nobel Prize and well-recognized academics from around the world.
Netiwit is Thailand’s first conscientious objector who opposes mandatory conscription. He has campaigned rigorously against conscription and actively called for reforms in the military which he identifies as the cause for the decline of Thai democracy. After he found he could no longer do anything to further his cause in his position in the University’s main political body he focused his attention instead on a printing press that he and his student colleagues set up by the name of “Sam Nak Nisit Sam Yan Publication.” It has as its main the intention to promote critical thinking in a way that it would be a driving force in pushing for a democratic spirit through the study of publications, a printing press that studies publications, printing presses, publishing student publications, their political perspectives and translating works from foreign countries that are deemed suitable for Thais to read.
On a personal level Netiwit has written books reflecting on his personal experiences with more than five books focusing on Thai education and the university. He has also translated works that contribute towards democratic activities such as Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Isaiah Berlin’s essays, On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder as well as essays by Chinese writer and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo. Netiwit has many more translation projects in mind of writers and thinkers who have inspired him personally and whose ideas could contribute to the Thai democratic cause.be it Vaclav Havel, Thomas Paine, Rebecca Solnit, Tony Judt and many others.
In 2018 he was invited to address the Oslo Freedom Forum. The title of his talk was on the topic of “The Student vs.the Military.” He believes democracy isn’t something that can come easily but should be a product of education and gatherings of members of society as well as the international community. His aim is to establish an organization that opposes military conscription and violence within military camps that could lead to the abolition of mandatory conscription and military reform. Prior to entering university Netiwit had already earned a name for himself as a youth on a mission of reforming Thai education. He called for reforms in regulations on students’ haircuts (resembling military crew cuts), authoritarianism in the school and an inefficient system of education. He started the Thai Education Revolution Alliance as well as the Education for Liberation of Siam group (the sole independent student group to continue to advocate education reforms in Thailand.
Excerpt from The Author and His Book
in The Terrible Student in an Excellent Educational System, 2018 (Thai Version)
by Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal