Health and educational officials blame poor school guidance and systems to help students manage tension for a 16-year-old boy's sudden breakdown and his torching of a building at Mahidol Witthayanusorn School, causing up to 130 million baht in damage.
Mental illness was also a factor, a meeting on the incident yesterday was told.
The student allegedly claimed to police he hid in the library on Saturday at 9pm, waiting until 3am to start the blaze.
Executives of Mahidol Witthayanusorn School, alumni, parents association delegates and various officials called the meeting at the Education Ministry to work out how much damage was caused by the fire and what was the motive behind it.
Yuwadee Nakapadungrat, a school director, said preliminary estimates of the damage put the cost at between 100 and 130 million baht.
The most severe damage was to the school's academic services centre building that housed a central library with more than 70,000 books, a computer lab, a virtual reality theatre for astronomical classes and auditoriums.
The first three floors of the seven-storey building were hit hardest by the blaze.
Mrs Yuwadee said the school had checked the boy's behavioural record.
She said he was as polite and normal as other students when studying in Mathayom 4 (Grade 10).
However, when he reached Mathayom 5, his parents had asked his class teacher to keep a special watch on him, but did not provide any details.
Two weeks after the term had started, he apparently showed some signs of tension.
The school had tried to keep an eye on him but failed, Mrs Yuwadee said.
Last year, 90% of students graduated from Mahidol Witthayanusorn School with a cumulative grade point average (GPAX) at 3.5 out of 4. The student reportedly got 3.1.
Department of Mental Health director-general Chatree Banchuen said the action reflect the student's emotional state of an individual.
Health permanent secretary Paichit Varachit was concerned about the student's state of mind.
''The student may have family problems or mental problems which people around him can sense,'' Dr Paichit said. ''These people often appear normal on the outside, but they may show the signs occasionally.''
Sompong Jitradub, an Education Faculty lecturer at Chulalongkorn University and a member of a committee on education reform, said the incident did not reflect the student's mental problems but rather school problems which urgently needed to be resolved.
Besides tough competition among the students, there was also a division between students from the provinces and the capital, he said. ''Most importantly, the school lacks a good guidance system because the student once reportedly set fire to a sofa
[at the school],'' he said.
''If there had been an efficient guidance system, such an incident would not have been repeated.''
Mrs Yuwadee rejected the claim and said the school was well aware of the issue. Enhancement of emotional maturity for students was already part of the school's teaching system, she said.