When I was studying at a Thai school with my brothers, vocational school students were the enemies.
My brothers were the “short-legs” or “เด็กขาสั้น” and they were the “long-legs” or “เด็กขายาว”.
The names came from the length of the mandatory uniform where the high school students can only wear short pants while vocational students get to wear the long ones.
My brothers were fighting with vocational school students almost every other day just because the name of their schools and the vocational school students were different and they happened to be located near each other.
Safe zones were being set up like which bus station is safe to wait for the buses to go home and which one you should not be if you do not want to be in a fight.
I witnessed various senseless attacks on each other by both sides. Hiding on the bus, getting into a fight and running away from chasing mob became the norm that can be expected every week.
Some called it tradition. I called it a waste of valuable resources.
The fight between the short-legs and the long-legs was something that I have lived through but it was still not as severe as the grudges between the vocational students with different emblems.
Fighting between vocational school students from different schools often resulted in major injuries and deaths due to the equipment and tools that they have access to.
Making Ping-Pong bombs and homemade pen-guns are skills that most vocational students are all capable of.
I witnessed how bad these fights can get when a vocational school student was shot in the head with a pen-gun while sleeping on a bus just because the shooter was from a different school and he wanted to collect the victims’s belt as war souvenir.
Some university students also fight against each other and the vocational school students.
One of my brother also became a victim when he was studying at a university when an unknown student from another university took a machete to his head.
My brother survive with no long-term injury beside the big scar on his forehead and until this day, we still do not know who did it. He could have died for no good reason at all.
From all my experiences, however, it was still heartwarming to see vocational school students stop fighting each other and became united under their fight for equality and democracy.
Most of the student who used to fight each other are now standing said by side as volunteer guards and most of them are on the frontlines at every pro-democracy protest.
They told me they were there to make sure that the police get to them first before the younger students at the back. I have also witnessed these guards stopping rowdy protestors from attacking police officers.
From my time studying and covering protest sites since 2010, these were the calmest volunteer guards I have ever seen because they were always on the defense first and they stopped counter-attacking when asked.
New friendships are being formed and singer Chaiamorn Kawewiboonpan, aka Ammy the Bottom Blues, has sarcastically said thank you to the dictatorship of Prayut for being the only PM capable of stopping the fighting between the vocational school students.
All I hope is that this is not just a ceasefire and that after all of this is over, they will not go back to the useless fights anymore.
And if the students and the progressives do win the fight, we hope they focus on work programs for vocational students and really empower the education systems in the various vocations.