The World Peace University (WPU) announced its sudden closure in Thailand yesterday with its last attempt to grant honorary degrees here foiled by officials.
"There is no more World Peace University in Thailand. I feel unsafe to do educational tasks here, so I will do them in other countries instead," WPU rector Sawat Banterngsook said.
Participants at a reception organised by the ‘‘Universal Ministries of Thailand’’ receive honorary certificates at a hotel in Nonthaburi and pose for a group photo. Later, they were asked by an officer from the Department of Special Investigation to take off their gowns since they had also been used by the illegal World Peace University. PATTARAPONG CHATPATTARASILL
Mr Sawat yesterday showed up at The Rich Hotel in Nonthaburi where a ceremony to grant "honorary certificates" from the "Universal Ministries of Thailand (UM)" was held.
Earlier, Mr Sawat said the WPU would grant its last batch of honorary degrees at the hotel to people who had performed good deeds for society.
But the event was cancelled and was replaced with the event called the "Minister Ordination Ceremony" organised by the UM to hand "honorary certificates" to about 30 people.
Representatives of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the Office of the Higher Education Commission (Ohec) closely monitored the event.
Mr Sawat denied involvement with the UM. He said the chosen recipients should have been offered WPU honorary degrees but this could not be done since Ohec had publicly stated that legal action would be taken if the word "university" was used at the event.
Ohec previously confirmed the WPU was illegally set up and has filed charges against it. The DSI said it had received a complaint that the WPU had cheated the public by awarding degrees despite lacking bona fide university status.
At the hotel, Mr Sawat released nine doves which he said symbolised educational freedom.
"The WPU is now gone with the doves. When Thailand understands us more, [WPU] will come back," he said.
At the UM event, the certificate-presentation ceremony to about 30 people was disrupted when a DSI official moved in and raised questions about its legality.
Worapong Meekhuneiam, head of the DSI's legal enforcement division, observed the ceremony. He questioned whether the UM was granting honorary certificates on behalf of the WPU and why the ceremony's name was abruptly changed.
"The recipients are wearing graduation gowns and no one here can tell where the gowns came from," he said.
His interruption created a tense atmosphere at the event as members of the UM were not able to answer his questions.
Mr Worapong told the gathering that certificate recipients should take off the gown to avoid violating the law. Some of the participants paid heed while others chose not to receive the certificates.
Surasri Sri-insut, president of a village heads association in Nonthaburi, walked out. He admitted he had been offered the honorary certificate at a cost, but refused to disclose the figure.
"I decided not to receive the certificate as too many people have cast doubt on it," he said.
Manawan Buakhao, head of Romsai Foundation in Nonthaburi's Bang Kruai district, who was one the the recipients, said he deserved the certificate as he had performed good deeds for 11 years.
"I realise well that this certificate cannot be used as an academic reference and I do not intend to use it for that purpose," he said. He insisted he had paid no money.
Another recipient, who asked not to be named, said that the honorary certificates were not given away to just anyone. He said they went only to good people.
"It provides moral support to good people to continue doing good deeds," he said.
" I will use this certificate for nothing except to show my grandchildren that I have done good deeds for society."
Another recipient, from Chiang Mai, said that it was an honour for him to be selected even though he knew that WPU had faced a credibility problem.
Noppadol Konkam, who claimed he was the UM's "minister of peace", said the UM was a non-profit organisation affiliated with Universal Ministries of United States. It grants honorary certificates to honour and provide moral support to people who have done good deeds.
"Today, we grant honorary certificates to you, not honorary degrees, as this country is not ready for this," he said, and insisted that the certificates belonged to the UM, not the WPU, and this was the first time the UM had granted certificates to Thai people.
He said that the only connection between the WPU and the UM was that both shared the same intention to reward people who have done good deeds.
The UM was asked to submit all details about its organisation and grantees' names to the DSI after the ceremony.
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- Writer: Lamphai Intathep