Thai school lacked permission to enrol foreigners

  • Schools that enrol foreign students in Thailand must  meet two requirements. They must obtain non-immigrant ED (education) visas. Secondly, schools must be approved by the education ministry on a case-by-case basis to admit foreign students on national security grounds

Kathmandu, July 25

The Office of the Private Education Commission of Thailand, a wing of the Thai Ministry of Education, has said that Bangkok-based International Hotel and Airline Business School (I-HABS), which duped Nepali students with the promise of providing hotel management training, had not received permission from the ministry to enrol foreign students.

I-HABS, registered with the Thai government to provide tourism, airlines and hospitality courses in 1993, has acknowledged its mistake, according to the Bangkok Post. “We did not think that was important,” said I-HABS Managing Director Sunil Khadka. “We had decided to get  permission from Thai authorities by the time students graduated. But I acknowledge the mistake and we should have informed Thai authorities about intake of foreign students within 45 days of their arrival.”

Schools that enrol foreign students in Thailand must meet two requirements. “They must obtain non-immigrant ED (education) visas. Secondly, schools must be approved by the education ministry on a case-by-case basis to admit foreign students on national security grounds,” OPEC Secretary-general Chalam Attham told the Bangkok Post, adding, “The commission will soon set up a committee to gather and verify the facts. It will take a few days before we can proceed with the case and decide whether it violates the Private School Act.”

The OPEC formed a team to probe the case this week after I-HABS was found to have duped 14 Nepali students.

These 14 students had enrolled in I-HABS located at Ramintra Road in Bangkok for an eight-month training and internship in hotel management. I-HABS is run by Khadka, Sujan Basnet, who is its director, and Siriwuth Wuthisuwanwat, a Thai national who is its president.

It used to collect around $3,500 from each Nepali student and provide false promise of training in a glitzy environment and internship at four- to five-star hotels. But students were housed in a shoddy four-storey building, which doubled up as training centre without any necessary equipment. “There was a kitchen on the first floor and classes were conducted on the second floor. There was a girls’ hostel on the third floor and boys’ hostel on the fourth floor,” a student said on condition of anonymity. “The school had set up its reception in a small space in the middle of a staircase.”

The students also found that the courses they were offered were not similar to what had been pledged. All of the 14 students returned to Nepal within three months of arrival in Bangkok after they could not cope with subpar living and working conditions.

Panisha Chaichanakul, the wife of I-HABS MD Khadka, refuted these claims. She told the Bangkok Post that the school’s facilities and course in hotel management were not below standard.

“I admit some students were not satisfied with the school’s facilities and instructors. I got complaints that our training centre was too small and our teaching was not good enough. However, I insist private schools for non-formal education are like this because we are not colleges,” she said, adding, “We also gave them weekly food budgets.”

But one of the students, who was duped, told THT that 10 students were given a total of 1,500 baht (approximately Rs 5,300) as weekly food allowance. “The money was sufficient to buy food for only three to four days,” the student said.

A video released by students to explain their sordid experience shows them saying they did not have money for food and there were no medical facilities. They also said their passports had been seized.