Students with wide ear-piercing and clearly visible tattoos will not be accepted for general study courses at public vocational schools in Bangkok and its outskirts next academic year.
The announcement of the policy has met with concern from National Human Rights Commission member Visa Benjamano, who said it would bar some students from receiving a chance to study, which was essential for their quality of life.
Adisorn Sinprasong, secretary of the Association of Private Technological and Vocational Education Colleges, said new students with large ear piercings would have to restore their ears to normal. Students with visible tattoos would have to study in the evening courses.
Adisorn said the agreement was made among the vocational colleges in Bangkok and its outskirts to ensure graduates of member schools have a good appearance and the opportunity for wide employment.
"Young people with large ear-piercings and tattoos are at risk of engaging in antisocial behaviour and violence," he claimed. "Many employers, such as official agencies and Japanese firms, do not accept this group to work with them. That is why we have to add this standard to student qualifications."
He said this student admission standard had been implemented by some schools for some time, but it was not widely publicised.
He added that most parents understood and approved of the decision, saying they were against body piercing and tattooing.
However, Visa criticised the new student-qualification standard as a violation of affected students' right to receive an education.
"All children have a right to education. They also have rights over their bodies. My stance is that body-piercing and tattoos are not an indication of antisocial behaviour and have no implication for the ability to study. They are just about fashion," she said.
"This new standard will cut the opportunity to be educated and improve the quality of life for some children, which will more likely to push them the wrong way. It would be better to let them study and give them a chance to choose the pathway for their lives."
Phatharapong Wongporn, the father of a Panyapiwat Institute of Management student, said he was satisfied with the policy.
"Tattooing serves a variety of purposes depending on individuals. It could be for cosmetic, spiritual, and fashion reasons," he said. "As a father, I conceive tattoos as a symbol of disobedience."
He said that although he was not against tattoos and untraditional piercings, he believed that some people still attached negative stereotypes to those being body-painted or having five holes in one ear.
A student at Bangkok Commercial Thonburi, Jutamas Promwong, also voiced support for the policy, saying such body art glorified aggression and violence.
"Even though tattoo wearers may view such displays as a way of self-expression, they are inevitably looked down on by other people. There is a high risk of them receiving negative evaluations from the vast majority of people. To me, visible tattoos and piercing are offensive and unprofessional," Jutamas said.