Thai govt probes hotel studies scam

Kathmandu, July 23

The Thai government has launched an investigation into the scam designed by Nepalis residing in Bangkok to deceive Nepali students on the pretext of providing hotel management training in the Thai capital.

The Office of the Private Education Commission of Thailand, a wing of the Thai Ministry of Education, today dispatched a team to the International Hotel and Airline Business School at Ramintra Road in Bangkok following media reports that the school has so far duped 14 Nepali students.

“We had gone to the school for inspection based on reports. But it was closed. Nobody was there,” the commission’s Secretary-general Chalam Attham told THT over the phone, adding, “We can give you more information tomorrow.”

I-HABS is run by Sunil Khadka, who is its managing director, Sujan Basnet, who is its director, and Siriwuth Wuthisuwanwat, a Thai national is its president. It used to collect around $3,500 from each Nepali student and provide false promise of eight-month training in 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.

Students, duped by the school, had earlier released a video stating they were living in a pig pen like house without emergency exit. They said they did not have money for food, medical facilities were lacking  and their passports had been seized.

At least 14 Nepali students, who could not live and work in those subpar conditions, returned to Nepal within three months of leaving for Bangkok. They still have not been able to recover their money.

“I have received the report [about students who were deceived], and I have dispatched a team to verify I-HABS’s certification,” Chalam told the Bangkok Post. “It will be easier if victims can come forward, but we can file a lawsuit against Nepali agents for defrauding the students.”

Chalam said he would raise the matter with the Nepali embassy and the Immigration Bureau after collecting enough evidence.

The Nepali embassy in Thailand today formally informed Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the case. “We’ve asked it to ascertain whether I-HABS has been legally registered and whether it can conduct hospitality courses,” Pratigya Rai, second secretary at the Embassy of Nepal in Thailand, told THT over the phone from Bangkok.

Earlier, the Nepali Embassy in Thailand had also played a suspicious role in the case.

After the students released a video explaining their sordid experience at the so-called I-HABS, Non-resident Nepali Association-Thailand sought the help of the embassy to rescue them. The embassy initially agreed to field a team to rescue the students. But on the day when the rescue mission was supposed to be dispatched, the embassy told NRNA-Thailand that it had been in touch with students for the past two to three days and the students would come to the embassy to sign a ‘reconciliation agreement’ with school operators.

The students were then forced to post an apologetic video claiming there was a “misunderstanding and that the school’s President Siriwuth, who is at large, was the main culprit who duped Khadka and Basnet”, a student said on condition of anonymity.

Earlier, I-HABS MD Sunil Khadka, who is also central committee member of the Socialist Party-Nepal, had said he would visit Nepal in two weeks to resolve the matter. I-HABS, meanwhile, has suspended its website and Facebook page.