Bangkok U students revolt over tuition fees for closed campus

‘Return students’ their tuition’ read the message on the iconic diamond-shaped building of Bangkok University’s main campus in the Rangsit area. Image: Coalition of Bangkok University Students
‘Return students’ their tuition’ read the message on the iconic diamond-shaped building of Bangkok University’s main campus in the Rangsit area. Image: Coalition of Bangkok University Students

Bangkok University students calling for the university to partially refund their tuition after its campuses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic say they have gotten no response.

A university rep would not answer questions Friday beyond saying that school administrators acknowledged the student movement. On Wednesday, the Coalition of Bangkok University Students had leveled up their protests with in-trend light projections – at least photoshopped onto photos which spread online to get public attention.

Since campuses closed in March, the students say they’ve unsuccessfully sought the same kind of relief offered by other major universities.

“Because silence is easier, they think the students will soon forget,” @CBUS_Official tweeted Friday.

It was a Wednesday tweet of the faux projections – in the style of another recent stunt – laced with TikTok-aware humor that sent #ReturnTuitiontoStudents and #RIPTenThousandVoices trending on social media.

“If you think silence will let you get away with it, that’s not true,” the group tweeted, making reference to a current TikTok thing. “The inner circles know and every class knows that you are not listening to student voices.”

Attempts to reach the university administration since Friday morning were unsuccessful. Multiple calls, emails and messages went unreturned. A reporter was told that it would be “inconvenient” for Preeraya Hanphongpan, the vice president of student affairs and communications, to speak.

The student group first formally complained March 27 when it submitted a 10,000-strong petition asking that some portion of their tuition be refunded because the campus closed and they were unable to use university facilities. They noted that portions of their tuition earmarked for “lab” costs and “building maintenance” no longer made sense. They complained again on April 21; they say both were ignored.

“We have been trying to pressure the university in so many ways for months now, and they never get back to us, so we’re trying this,” said Promsin Bunjan, the student group’s president. “We have to wait and see if they’re going to do something within a few days or we will consider trying something else.”

Students say they pay up to THB5,000 in lab fees depending on their faculty, plus another THB15,000 for maintenance costs. At a time many are struggling financially, they want the refunds to help themselves and their families during the outbreak.

Bangkok University has offered some support for students during the outbreak. It has offered options for full or partial scholarships for future terms if students provide evidence they have been affected economically. Dorm residents also got a 50% discount on their March rent with payments waived until they are allowed to return.

Other Bangkok universities have aided students since the pandemic accelerated in March. Chulalongkorn University has a THB500 million pandemic relief fund for students including  THB10,000 stipends for up to 4,000 affected students. Thammasat University offered THB5,000 payments to students in need and other students could apply for THB2,500 in funds.

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CITY: BANGKOKCATEGORY: NEWS

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