Thailand launches probe into exam-bribes scandal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 May, 2004, 12:00am

Thailand Education Minister Adisai Bodharamik has launched a probe into tutorial school operators who he believes might be making corrupt payments to education officials in return for access to examination papers.

Tutorial schools have proliferated in Thailand, charging high fees in return for promises of greater success in university entrance exams.

Mr Adisai said he strongly suspected officials engaged in setting and printing exam papers were in cahoots with tutorial schools.

He ordered the Higher Education Commission to work with university rectors and lecturers to revamp the entrance exam system, and seek evidence of corruption involving tutorial schools.

However, one lecturer, who did not want to be named, said the probe would achieve little and was a political stunt. 'If they really wanted to catch these people, they should have done the investigation first, not shouted about it to the press,' she said. 'Now, everyone will be on their guard, so how do they expect to catch the perpetrators?'

Mr Adisai has been accused of protecting an official at the centre of claims that papers for this year's university entrance exams were leaked.

He was one of eight ministers who faced censure motions in Parliament from the opposition Democrat Party last week. Mr Adisai told the house he was trying to end the problem of exam leaks, not cause them. He also said he was close to finding 'firm evidence' that some officials with access to exam papers had leaked them to tutorial schools.

Lecturers and parents' groups have been calling for the minister's removal following revelations last month that former Higher Education Commission secretary-general Voradej Chandarasorn was still in line for a pay rise, despite being removed from his position while an investigation proceeds.

Controversy erupted after it was discovered Mr Voradej perused the Thai language and social studies exam papers in late January, and that his staff took exam papers for all 34 subjects from the printing house on March 4, two days before exams were due to begin.

Mr Voradej has admitted he made an 'error of judgment' but denies he played any part in leaking the papers. He has been shifted sideways on full pay during the investigation.

It also emerged this week that two key witnesses to the exam leak scandal are being transferred from their official posts. Chakorn Wipusonwanich, chairman of a committee which oversees the printing of exam papers, blew the whistle about irregularities in the Thai language and social studies exam papers, saying the envelopes containing the originals did not carry the signatures of the chairmen of the exam design and screening panels, as was normally the case.

He, along with Sasithorn Ahingsako, director of the Higher Education Commission's Central Test Bureau, will be transferred.