Tech college pupil dies after initiation trip goes wrong

Tech college pupil dies after initiation trip goes wrong
File photo of freshmen registering for the new academic year at a university in Thailand.

Preliminary autopsy indicates that a technical college student did not die from injuries found on his body while on an unsupervised initiation trip.

Pokai Saengrojrat, 17, a first-year student at Pathumthani Technical College, was reported dead on Saturday while at the seaside province of Prachuap Khiri Khan. Senior students were also on the trip.

A rumour spread that Pokai may have died after being the victim of violence and being forced to consume alcohol. "He had some minor wounds, bruises and scratches but they were not fatal," Institute of Forensic Medicine commander Pol Maj-General Pornchai Suteerakune said yesterday.

He said detailed examinations would determine if Pokai was exposed to a dangerous substance or anything harmful and results would be known in about two months.

The preliminary autopsy identified respiratory and blood-circulation failure as the likely cause of death. Pokai was the only child of Siriwimon and Panupong Saeng-rojrat. His mother said her son had records of leukaemia and respiratory problems.

In response to the death, the Office of Vocational Education Commission (Ovec) has launched a probe into the college's director, Kwanchai Panich-karn, who has been accused of negligence for failing to prevent the trip.

"I have already set up a fact-finding committee," Ovec secretary general Chaiprug Sereerak said. "All off-campus activities, whether held by students or teachers, must receive prior approval from the college's executive and have the consent of parents," Chaiprug emphasised.

He said the Ovec did not have a policy for colleges under its supervision to organise initiation trips.

"Colleges should hold activities that promote moral soundness and public-mindedness," he said. "And these activities must ban alcohol."

Speaking at a press conference, Kwanchai said he had assigned his deputy to look into what happened and results suggested that there was no use of violence. "The trip had 54 participants - 15 were first-year students. They joined the trip voluntarily and engaged in seven camp activities including how to deliver first aid and do squat jumps," he said.

According to Kwanchai, Pokai was doing squat jumps when he collapsed. "We gave him first aid and rushed him to a nearby hospital," students were quoted as saying.

Kwanchai said the college and the parents' association for the college would provide Bt40,000 in financial aid to Pokai's family.

"The family will also get to claim compensation under the life-insurance policy for students," he said.

Education Ministry permanent secretary Suthasri Wongsaman said the college director could not deny responsibility even though students arranged the trip on their own.

"It's necessary that the college executives monitor students and their activities," she said.

In the wake of Pokai's death, the Rajamangala University of Techno-logy now requires all activities to be conducted on campus. The university has five campuses in the Northeast. "We have assigned lecturers to monitor students' behaviour and activities," university president Asst Prof Viroj Limkaisang said.

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