School director accused in 'tea money' scandal
Secretary claims 'plot' by enraged alumni
The director of an elite co-ed school on Rama VI Road may have to return the 400,000 baht in tea money he demanded from a parent who caught him on video.
Moreover, the director, whose close aide has claimed that he is being blackmailed, will face disciplinary procedures and criminal charges if he is found to have taken the money, said Obec secretary-general Karun Sakulpradit.
Mr Karun said Obec legal experts have been sent to investigate the issue at the Samsenwittayalai School located on Rama VI Road.
The alleged bribe attracted media attention after the parent unveiled a video clip allegedly showing the payment being made to the school director for admitting his child into Mathayom 1 (6th Grade).
The clip showed a parent placing a cash package on a table in the office of a man who is alleged to be the director.
The parent recorded every moment of contact from talking to the person over the phone to setting up an appointment and later bringing the money in a brown envelope to the school. But the school executive allegedly told the parent to hand the cash to his deputy, who was standing nearby.
The parent claimed the cash was a bribe and he also petitioned the permanent secretary for education on Monday to look into the issue.
"The director must clarify whether he received the tea money and must return it to the parent if he engaged in misconduct, said Mr Karun.
"We don't know what the truth is. That will become clearer after the inspection," he added.
A fact-finding panel has begun its investigation but has not yet met with the school director, who was travelling back to Thailand after a study trip, Mr Karun said.
"I'm very serious about this matter because Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin always tells officials not to let them [tea money payments] take place at schools," said the Obec secretary-general.
If the fact-finding panel finds the accusation has legs, the school director will be transferred and face a further probe and serious disciplinary action.
Meanwhile, a secretary for the director, who was set to return to Thailand from the trip abroad Monday, has made an initial response to the accusation, arguing the bribe never took place.
The secretary claimed the incident was a "well-organised plot" by a group of school alumni who were upset their children could not get into the school.
He said the alumni had requested that the school secure places for children at Mathayom 1 and Mathayom 4 (10th Grade) every year, including this year, but the school could not "help" all of the students, according to the secretary's handwritten note obtained by the media.
As a result, the "set-up" video clip, which was shot on April 19, was aimed at blackmailing the school director, he said.
The secretary left one question at the end of the note, asking why the clip was not disclosed right after April 19, but was instead kept until June.
The panel anticipates that the school director will be able to report to its members today.