Thailand is No. 1
Taking sides in one of the great debates in Asia, the Japanese news Web sites Rocket News 24 and Livedoor have declared that the uniforms worn by female Thai university students are the sexiest in the world.
In an online poll, the form-fitting black skirts and body-hugging white shirts common on every university campus in Thailand outpointed the short pleated skirts and sailor blouses ubiquitous to Japanese higher education.
In a country famous for what may be the largest organized sex industry in the world, where the lure of naked dancing girls draws at least as many tourists as the country's famed beaches, the poll predictably caused some familiar outrage.
Indeed, it is common in Thailand for educators and moral welfare guardians to rail against the habit of young women shortening the skirts – which are intended to be worn at knee length – to the point where sitting demurely in public must be a challenge. The starched white shirts, which are adorned with signature campus pins, are frequently so many sizes too small in the bust that they seem to challenge the strength of both fabric and buttons.
In response to the poll praising the pulchritude of Thai students, Deputy Education Minister Chaiyos Jiramethakorn was quoted in the Thai language daily Naew Na last week saying that universities should crack down on revealing outfits. He said the ministry will summon educators to discuss the problem and work out policies to tackle the issue.
A similar clampdown on suggestive dressing by elite coeds at Bangkok's top-tier Chulalongkorn University and Thammasat University in 2009 seems to have been short-lived and ineffective, despite calls by the universities at the time for the government to launch a "Social Cabinet" to tackle the issue of students wearing uniforms inappropriately.
Thammasat's deputy rector for student affairs, Parinya Thewanaruemitkul, said at the time that the university closely supervises the student uniform code at each university and he called on the government to help others assure that students wear "appropriate clothes" to all classes.
The perennial issue of sexy schoolgirls in Thailand seems rarely to occasion thoughts of simply scrapping the uniforms and treating students like the young adults they actually are and allowing them to dress themselves. Thai students have for years said they dress the way they do precisely because they see the uniform as a rule from an earlier time and they just want to appear stylish and young.
In reacting to news of the Japanese uniform poll, a columnist for Naew Na spun the usual line in calling for greater moral teaching to stem the tide of eroticism on campus.
"At least, the existence of uniforms will help teach our children about discipline and courtesy. Uniforms will remind them of their status as students whose role is to study and seek knowledge. Students in uniforms should be mindful in whatever they do or don't do," wrote the author of the Kuan Nam Hai Sai column.
"The most practical solution could be to educate and make students appreciate the value of wisdom and good deeds, instead of external beauty, stardom and fame."