A recent study suggests that a "culture of corruption" has taken root deep within the education system, as more officials and school directors are taking advantage of their positions to line their pockets with state funds.
"Reports of sub-standard school lunches, which recently surfaced in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Nakhon Ratchasima, are just two examples of dishonest plots hatched by an influential network," said the author of the study, Assoc Prof Pornamarin Promgrid of Khon Kaen University -- referring to politicians, senior education officials, headmasters and businesspeople.
"Officers engage in corrupt practices whenever there is a chance to do so," he said, citing the study he conducted between 2017-2018 in the northeastern provinces of Kalasin, Khon Kaen, and Maha Sarakham.
The acts of corruption, said Assoc Prof Pornamarin, range from the embezzling of state funds, colluding to mark up prices of educational and school construction materials, as well as demanding bribes from parents who want their children to be enrolled in a particular school.
Assoc Prof Pornamarin said the amount of money skimmed from the budgets to upgrade school facilities is a cause for concern.
"About 30% of the total budget are skimmed away by irresponsible officials and school directors," he said.
Assoc Prof Pornamarin added he was not surprised to see the directors of some famous schools -- whose names weren't cited in his study -- often become suddenly wealthy upon retirement, with assets amounting to hundreds of millions of baht in several cases.
"They could easily make money by, for example, colluding with vendors to mark up prices for teaching supplies, which regularly has to be restocked," he said.
Assoc Prof Pornamarin said his study is based on in-depth interviews with people who are familiar with the matter, before saying that the extent of corruption is "seriously worrying".
"It seems that corruption is already in their blood," he said.
Separately, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted his government will get tough on corrupt officials, deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak said on Sunday.