NONTHABURI — Police on Wednesday said criminal charges will be filed against another teacher involved in a string of violence against kindergarten pupils at a school northwest of Bangkok.
The teacher, named by the police as Nisachon Pattanasaeng, will be the third suspect in the criminal investigations into alleged assaults at Sarasas Witaed Ratchaphruek School. The president of the education firm that owns the school also ignited new rounds of controversy by suggesting that some parents might exaggerate the incidents for financial gains.
“In the end, they just want the money,” Piboon Yongkamol, the president of Sarasas schools, said in an interview with Thairath TV on Tuesday. “I have said earlier that the school is willing to pay, but they shouldn’t do this. It’s too much.”
When the host asked whether Piboon would personally negotiate with families who step forward with their complaints, he said it is unnecessary since the parents are being hostile to him.
“We don’t need more meetings,” Piboon said. “I’m afraid it will end up like the red shirts today. What’re they cheering about? They’re not showing courtesy. They’re not willing to fix it.”
“They just want to win,” he went on. “Please give the school an opportunity to address it. We come in peace and I would like to apologize to the parents.”
Many viewers immediately viewed his comment as an attempt to politicize the issue, but Piboon said in a news conference today that he was only making a reference to a parent wearing a red shirt at the school meeting.
Three people were already charged for their alleged involvement in a series of violence against kindergarteners, which were captured on security camera footage.
Regional police commander Ampon Buarabporn identified the three suspects as Ornuma “Jum” Plodprong, Pamornrak Rasamimethakorn, and Filipino English teacher Mawin Orajola.
Ornuma and Pamornrak worked as babysitters at the kindergarten. Police said they counted 25 instances of assault by the duo from the CCTV footage. Lt. Gen. Ampon said Ornuma and Pamornrak were taken to the court on Tuesday and late released on bail.
Orajola, the Filipino teacher, is said to be under custody at the immigration bureau for working at the school without a permit. Police said Orajola will also be charged with assaults.
‘They Lied to Us’
Footage shared online of teachers at Sarasas Witaed Ratchaphruek School was widely condemned on social media. Although violent punishments are routine in Thai schools – just this past week, a highschooler was diagnosed with tenosynovitis after she was punished by her teacher – shoving and pushing kindergarteners crossed the line for many.
Sarasas schools are also known to be superior to state-run schools, and that reputation comes with steep tuition fees. Parents reportedly pay 100,000 baht a year for enrollment at Sarasas Witaed Ratchaphruek, where the assaults took place.
Tensions ran high between parents and Sarasas administrators on Tuesday afternoon when the school held a meeting to discuss the issue.
Before the meeting would begin, parents mobbed the room where education regulators were seen discussing with the school management in private, and demanded them to move the negotiation to the open, before parents and reporters.
“What’re you talking about? The parents are here. Please be transparent!” one of the parents shouted. “We want them to come out and say in front of us. Not only had they prevented the press from reporting about it before, but they also lied to us that there are no security cameras.”
“I must know what happened to my child today!” he said.
Deputy education minister Kanokwan Wilawan said officials had no intent to hide anything from the parents, but they were just inspecting teaching licenses.
To the cheering of dozens of parents, she also announced that a fact-finding panel would be set up to scrutinize school operations and promised to take legal action against all wrongdoers.
“Please be rest assured that we will lodge complaints by tomorrow. The police are already here next to us,” Kanokwan said. “There will be no phoney fight.”
The parents then submitted a demand of 13 points to the school. They include financial compensation, real time access to security camera footage, clarification on teacher qualifications, and mental therapy for students.