Welfare embezzlement saga deepens

Welfare embezzlement saga deepens

Student denied award after assault claims

Khon Kaen: A university student who exposed an embezzlement scandal at a provincial welfare centre has been barred from receiving an honorary certificate to be presented by her faculty.

Panida Yotpanya, 22, a social science student at Maha Sarakham University, Thursday said she would not receive the award and a scholarship granted by the faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences until the university's probe against a professor who allegedly assaulted her is completed.

The result is expected on Monday.

The accused professor is Saimai Chaisirin, head of the faculty's Social Sciences Department.

Ms Panida said the probe panel comprised the faculty council and the student organisation of the institute.

The investigation against the professor zeroed in on four issues: ordering Ms Panida to prostrate herself before officials embroiled in the embezzlement; physical assault; failing to assist a student under her supervision; and violating the rights of a student, she said.

The probe came after Ms Panida and three friends working as interns at the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security's Protection Centre for the Destitute in Khon Kaen lodged a complaint with the National Council for Peace and Order.

The student claimed she and her friends were ordered by centre director Phuangphayom Chitkhom and other senior officials to fill in forms and sign receipts for 2,000 villagers, worth a total of 6.9 million baht.

Ms Panida said when she told Ms Saimai about the issue, the professor hit her twice in the back and accused her of crying wolf.

She also told Ms Panida to apologise to the centre's officials by prostrating herself before them, Ms Panida said.

In response to the accusations, Ms Saimai Thursday denied any wrongdoing, saying the facts were distorted and only one side of the story was reported to the public.

The professor said after being informed of the issue by Ms Panida, she visited the centre to speak with officials.

Ms Panida and her friends said they wanted to continue working as interns there until the end of the programme.

Ms Saimai admitted she did hit Ms Panida in the back twice on Jan 3 as she believed the student did not reveal the whole truth about the embezzlement.

Also Thursday, Jarumporn Suramanee, a member of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), said the agency agreed to set up sub-panels to look into irregularities at an additional five welfare centres in five provinces: Nong Khai, Bung Kan, Trat, Nan and Surat Thani.

The decision came after an initial investigation indicated receipt signatures were falsified for the disbursement of state funds there. Earlier, similar probes were conducted at the centres in Khon Kaen and Chiang Mai.

Pol Gen Jarumporn said the agency would work with the Office of the Auditor-General to compile evidence relating to the cases.

According to the examination of last year's budget allotted to the seven centres nationwide, irregularities were also found at 21 others.

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