BANGKOK — Facing questions from a TV host about the series of violence against kindergarteners at his schools – and the revelations that some of the teachers he employed didn’t even have licenses – the top chairman of the firm that operates those schools stressed the importance of dental hygiene.
“All the kindergarten teachers get free teeth cleaning every year too. We have a clinic,” Sarasas school network director Piboon Yongkamol said matter-of-factly. “We need good physicals, not people who talk to kids with bad breath.”
Piboon was speaking in a live interview via video call on a Channel 3 news show on Wednesday with host Kanchai “Noom” Kamnerdploy. Piboon went on to make more controversial, bizarre statements, like admitting he never had a teaching license himself, and dismissing the possibility of the authorities shutting down his schools because he can still make profit by selling the lands.
“People who apply for the job and have a teaching license, we accept,” he said after Noom asked how applicants to Sarasas schools are screened. “As for the babysitters, we chose people who look clean.”
Four education workers at one of the Sarasas schools have been charged with assaults for serial violence against a group of kindergarteners they oversaw. One of the suspects beat and shoved children over 30 times within a week, police said.
Investigators also said some of the educators at Witaed Ratchaphruek School did not hold a license to teach, including one Filipino teacher who didn’t have a work permit.
Piboon swatted that concern aside in the Channel 3 interview.
“Some teachers at school don’t have [teaching licenses]. This rule came later. Teachers all over the country don’t have one. Even when I was a teacher at 18, I didn’t have one and I still don’t have one now.”
When asked by the host if he was breaking the law, Piboon said, “How is that wrong? I’m not a teacher anymore. Are you going to start with me?”
“How can the press ask me to close the school? What about the good people there? And just this little error is not my fault. It’s the fault of the teacher and director, but now you’re including the entire network of schools.”
Piboon also said some of the parents “go too far. Help me fix this, instead of attacking me.”
In another interview with Channel 3’s morning news program, the director also said he had already apologized to the parents for the assaults on the students, and said people who suggested his schools be closed were using their “foot as brains” because the students would not have anywhere else to go to.
“If I wasn’t great, why would I have 49 schools with 90,000 students?” Piboon continued. “I’m not afraid of the school closure. I would get more profit from selling the land than from running a school.”
Piboon also said that some parents were exaggerating the incident so they could extort money from him.
“You can’t just say you got emotionally affected and want 2 million baht. Who’s gonna give you that?” he said. “If you don’t like my school, go learn elsewhere. If it’s expensive, go to cheap schools.”
His comments predictably drew outrage from many on social media. A senior education official even condemned Piboon for the interviews.
“Speaking as a normal person, the things you say make you a poo yai whom no one wants to respect,” Deputy education minister Kanokwan Wilawan said of Piboon in the Hone Krasae show.
“As a minister, you are not suitable to be in education,” Kanokwan said. “You are a disgraceful person.”