Scandal 'will not be last'

March 25, 2005

The secretary-general of Thailand's Education Council has been cleared of leaking university exam papers but found guilty of breaching procedures by opening sealed boxes before they were distributed to test centres.

It was suspected that the daughter of a powerful figure was to have benefited from the alleged leak. But Adisai Bodharamik, the Education Minister, decided against disciplinary proceedings in the case of Voradej Chandarasorn. "Voradej has long served the Civil Service and has devoted himself to serving the country's interests. The offence was a first for him," he said.

Earlier this month, Mr Chandarasorn said he would resign from the Civil Service regardless of the findings. Neat though this solution is to the latest exam leak scandal, academics say it is not the first and fear it will not be the last.

In 2002, the son of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was escorted from his political science exam at Ramkhamhaeng University when he was found in possession of notes relevant to the test. Panthongthae Shinawatra was cleared of cheating but found guilty of breaking regulations. He received an official warning but was not punished, and he was allowed to retake the exam.

On another occasion, entry rules to the prestigious Chulalongkorn University had to be changed after accusations that they had been relaxed for the Prime Minister's daughter.

"The trend of peddling university degrees to anyone who is willing to pay continues to proliferate," said Sompong Chitradab, an education lecturer at Chulalongkorn University.

He co-wrote an "open letter on the state of tertiary education" with Amornwich Nakornthap, director of the university's Centre for Education Policy Research. It lists problems in Thailand's higher education system, including the sale of degrees, mismanagement of university property, corruption, cronyism, nepotism and a general unwillingness to denounce wrongdoing.

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