PHUKET — Police said Friday they are investigating the death of a university student who reportedly went into shock and died during a cheerleading practice.
Pornpipat Iad-dum, a first-year Thai language major at Phuket Rajabhat University’s faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, died Thursday at the practice after her upperclassmen forced her to run eight laps around a building as a punishment, reports say.
On the seventh lap, Pornpipat reportedly collapsed onto the ground and went into shock. She died later at Vachira Phuket Hospital.
Pornpipat’s older sister Wilawan Iad-dum filed a police complaint Friday. She said the university told her Pornpipat had fainted, instead of dying from extreme physical exertion, even though the doctors found Pornpipat’s lungs were bleeding. The family said she had no preexisting conditions.
Lt. Col. Chana Suthimat of Phuket City Police, who is in charge of the case, said by phone Friday evening that the investigation for those responsible was still ongoing.
“This case is related to kids so we have to be very sure whether it is an accident, or done out of negligence,” Chana said.
Pornpipat was not allowed to drink water and was punished with running the eight laps since she had made eight mistakes during practice. In Thai universities, cheerleading practice often comes with harsh physical punishments and hazing.
University rector Hirun Prasankan on Friday at a press conference offered his condolences to the family and donated 100,000 baht to them for funerary expenses.
“Her death is not from rub nong as the media have reported, but from sports practice,” he said, referring to the culture of university hazing. When asked if the university would punish those responsible, the rector said they must investigate first.
Keerati Panmanee, an activist with the anti-hazing group Anti Sotus, said that the rector’s words were a diversion against the fatal punishment inflicted on Ponpipat. The creed of Sotus stands for Seniority, Order, Tradition, Unity and Spirit.
“She was forced to do silly dances and run around. Rub nong or not, this punishment is not right. It’s just a slice of SOTUS present at university. If an upperclassman can’t command anyone outside of the school to do it, then using their authority to make their underclassman do it is still SOTUS.”
Keerati said his activists in the province are helping to investigate the case.
“Everyone knows who these upperclassmen are. It won’t be hard to track them down. There were witnesses for sure at the moment of her death,” Keerati said.
Pornpipat appeared to be a Thai language enthusiast who participated in several contests. Her video entry to a southern dialect speech competition posted Aug. 7 is now filled with many condolences messages.
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