within the Thai educational system, both private and public are legendary.
Suffice it to say once foreign teachers are in the system with Thai bosses
there can and will be clashes.
University between an American teacher Roy Timothy Nixon and the Thai head of
English, professor Banapong Kosenarat. Tim
is so enraged that he wrote to StickmanBangkok – and I republish below.
Thailand and expressing his love for Thai people and the country at the appropriate
moments (24/7). He had a row with his
English co-ordinator which ended up when Banapong make a frenzied and surprise attack. Tim required many stitches in his head – and 21
teacher ‘went down’ for the incident.
complained to the Thai Ombudsman. No joy there either. It was a matter for the courts to decide
justice and a matter for him to go the courts further to seek compensation
which he could. Tim had complained to
the Ombudsman that neither the prosecutor nor police had notified him of the
court dates. The ombudsman ruled that
the police had been given the wrong address. That’s not true, retorted Tim. End
an internationally recognised international school in Thailand will the remuneration
be any good. One’s heart has to be in it to teach at a Thai government school,
or lesser international school. The rewards have to be in the pleasure of
passing on education. Of course I guess there are many people teaching English
purely to support a more hedonistic lifestyle.
Here’s Tim’s letter. Also the
On February 23, 2012, I was attacked by the English Program
coordinator, a Thai, at the university where I’d worked nearly two and a half
years. My assailant pounded the back of my head from behind me.
The attack was
so brutal and unrelenting that I was unable to turn and face him; the back of
my right hand was swollen from trying to shield myself from over fifteen hits.
I wound up with a concussion, three stitches in the back of my head, and a
blood-soaked shirt collar.
Luckily, at least four other Thai ajarns were in the
office: one of whom, a Thai lady about 60, tried to pull him away, but he
shoved her away and resumed hitting me. Had no one else been in the office, I
probably would have wound up in even worse condition.
Before telling what preceded and followed this event, let me
first say a few things about myself. I was an educator for 15 years before
coming to Thailand. I have three college degrees.
My abilities as an educator
received recognition three times in the months preceding and succeeding the
attack. I was asked to help a former dean’s daughter prepare for TOEFL. I was
asked by the dean of education to teach a special intensive English course to
Thai ajarns on that campus. I was asked by one of my former university students
from seven years previous to train English teachers in her province for a
special Ministry of Labor project.
In the last few weeks of the semester, before the attack,
there were several examples of my assailant’s, the coordinator’s, inability to
manage effectively and efficiently (I have emails and memoranda to illustrate).
Most significant for this story is the email we received the morning of the
last day of class. It said finals with listening components should be given the
last day of class instead of during finals because “the sound might disturb
some other exam room” (sic).
In my previous four semesters, there had never
been any similar announcement; in part, this late order was probably payback
for my closing the classroom door on the coordinator on the next-to-last day of
class so I could hear my students give presentations over his grandstanding on
the microphone in his room next door.
I’d already had my last classes before
that email and was prepared to start doing individual ten-minute interviews
with 150+ students.
Now, however, I had to find different rooms at the
previously scheduled time or when three sections of students were free from
other exams and could take their final listening test together. Not an easy
On February 23, the previously scheduled date for their
exam, I was still hoping to find suitable rooms away from other test-takers
where I could give my listening final. I was in the faculty offices, discussing
this issue with one of my proctors when the coordinator approached and started
needling me about last semester’s grades—at the end of this semester.
two months before, I had rechecked every numerical entry for every student in
the all-Thai grading program and accidentally ‘Add-ed a student,’ a completely
blank line, at the top of the printout but couldn’t delete it because all I
could read were student ID numbers. “Is this right this time? Are you sure? Are
you sure? What’s this blank line at the top? So, there are only 47 students,
not 48?” (Believe me when I say he tried to find any little way to make a
foreigner look bad, even one who’s taught for over twenty years and is
respected by students and other instructors.)
The problems with this coordinator actually started the
summer before this academic year. I had spoken my mind a couple times but more
often kept my peace even when he did not (see below). On this day, however, I
had had enough and fought fire with fire. “Very bright of you!” I said.
picked up on something he’d said to me a year before, accusing me of ignorance
of how things are done in a university; I said: “I’ve been around universities
more than 30 years, and I’ve never seen anyone as incompetent as you.” I
continued: “Your IQ isn’t half what mine is.” And, using something I’d learned
from a colleague in another faculty, “Your previous employer contacted this
campus to say you are not to be trusted!”
The proctor I’d been talking to, the
senior member of the English program, had been encouraging us both to stop and
leave, which I did. I walked out of that building, across a parking lot, across
a street, and back into my group office to tell the young woman who was the
previous coordinator I was ready to quit and let someone else do my 150+
individual interviews and all my exam marking.
Before I could finish talking to her at her cubicle, I was
being pounded on the back of my head. He had run out of the other building,
followed me across the parking lot and across the street to my office (his is
next door). He must have gotten in more than fifteen strikes before other
instructors in the room got him away. I finally turned and saw him half-way to
the door. I yelled: “You’re going to jail, faggot!” (I was a little distressed
and bleeding profusely). He screamed, ran out the door, and disappeared.
However, he wasn’t gone for long.
After getting my stitches and x-rays, I went with a couple
other Thai ajarns to the local police station. It was after 5:00 PM, and the
chief detective was out investigating a shooting else-where in town. It took a
few weeks to get the paperwork going, but on April 12, the police sent my
attacker a letter telling him to report to the police station for questioning
by April 20.
He did not appear and was sent another letter. In mid-May, the
police were tired of his excuses and his family’s lies about his whereabouts.
My attacker showed up to be told he was being arrested. The hospital report
said I needed more than 21 days to recover, key to his receiving jail time and
having to pay larger reparations.
What did the university do? Not much. He was not immediately
fired or even suspended. He didn’t even step down as program coordinator until
a week and a day after, probably very reluctantly at that. The day after the
attack, the dean, the ajarn who was going to proctor for me, and another Thai
ajarn came to my apartment lobby to ask me to “accept an apology, a little
money, and give him one last chance.” I was shocked and disgusted they would
even ask such a thing and said: “No. His last chance was when he wrote those
emails last November.”
On March 2, there was a meeting of a university committee
set up to “investigate the incident.” I was unable to attend because it was
scheduled at the same time I was finally able to give my students their
The dean’s office had left a memo in my mailbox to inform me
of the meeting—as if I were eager to go back to the office while I still had
stitches in my head! The dean’s office didn’t even call to inform me of the
meeting until it had actually begun and couldn’t understand when I said I had
to finish giving the exam and then give it again to students who had showed up
late to the first proctoring. (It was the last day of exams.)
On March 5, I wrote and had a student hand-deliver a letter
to the vice president’s office asking for official, written notification of my
attacker’s status. Had he been fired or suspended? There was another meeting of
the committee a few days later at which I told my story in detail, but I never
got any answer to my letter or my question about his status. There was to be
another meeting after that so the witnesses who had not given testimony yet
could do so.
I never heard any more about that or any other meetings. I did
find out later he was actually allowed to teach his courses throughout the
summer session after the attack.
I was not eager to go back to my office.
He was probably
even angrier when he got the April 12 letter from the police, informing him he
was being arrested for “harmful assault” –as several lawyers had already
described it to me as. The Thai ajarns in my group office would be teaching
classes all summer, but I did not have any teaching duties.
How could I sit
alone at my desk when someone I could not trust would be around all summer
because he hadn’t even been suspended by the university? I did know of some
work that someone needed to do. The day after the attack, my assailant
proctored a final exam for another foreigner in the program who had had his own
problems with the coordinator.
Mr. F had joined the program at the beginning of the
semester in November. One of the first things Mr. Coordinator told him was he
must take on some extra classes above and beyond what the contract stipulated,
for 200 baht per hour. Mr. F was close to 60 and did not feel he could handle
the additional hours.
|All this for US$1000 a month|
The only other foreigner and I had made clear we did not
want the extra work for such minimal compensation either. So, Mr. Coordinator
was probably unhappy he was not going to get a kickback for someone else’s hard
work and re-iterated to Mr. F he had to do the extra classes; to emphasize his
point, he approached Mr. F in “an aggressive and threatening manner.”
said ‘no’ again and left to drive home for the day. Before he got home, Mr.
Coordinator called to fire him, a procedure he could initiate as coordinator
but probably couldn’t carry out by himself in a university hierarchy (he was
quite intoxicated by his own power). The day after Mr. F held a towel to my
head to staunch the bleeding, he found my assailant proctoring his final exam
and challenging a question on it.
Disgusted, Mr. F left Thailand a couple days later; no one
ever heard from him again. He didn’t even start grading his students’ final
exams before he left. I had had the same groups of students and knew no one
else in the program had time to figure out how to grade his exams; in all
likelihood, they would avoid the responsibility.
Mr. F didn’t use the book the
students had bought and based his finals on handouts, which I did not have
copies of. There was no other data: no mid-terms, no attendance, no homework
scores, no syllabus, nothing. I discussed with a couple senior Thais in the
program my idea to make another, more relevant final exam for each of Mr. F’s
four courses so his students could just take another test instead of RE-taking
the course. They both said, “Thank you” to me for taking on the job. This task
kept me busy at home from early March until late April. (I will return to this
part of the story below.)
I mentioned the dean wanted me to give my attacker “one last
chance” and my reply was “No. His last chance was when he wrote those emails
last November.” In the same month he was bullying Mr. F, the coordinator left
on my desk a memo groundlessly attacking my teaching and professionalism; he
gave no specifics, which is the reason I tell above of three specific times my
teaching ability was recognized in that time period.
I answered Mr.
Coordinator’s memo with an email, which is still in my inbox. My tone was
sharp, yes, but I kept it focused on professional issues. (I did say I have a
handout in my files that might help with all those verb tenses he has problems
with.) He wrote two emails in response. Here is the first one:
Bustard (my name), (He means “bastard” but despite being an
English teacher, he can’t spell or use MS Word.)
“You are very idiot person and like an naive little child
from a remote state of US somewhere who never learn anything outside your own
community. I’m your boss who can evaluate your work performance. I’m in this
position. If you think Thailand is very low standard, why don’t you go back and
die there in your isolated home with your Thai wife who suck your blood all the
time and forever.
Don’t say bad words to me again otherwise I will put this
issue to the committee of our program and then pass through the President and
we may terminate your work contract as soon as possible since the huge
complaint about your teaching performance is very low and under the standard
that we can’t accept it, but anyway, I feel sympathy with you that you need
money to feed your wife and that’s the only reason why I extend the contract
for this year renew contract last month.
Don’t you know that? DO NOT insult me
this way. If you can’t follow my suggestion, it’s time for you to go to hell
and out of my sight. OK?
I wanted to respond to this. I wanted to tell him that I’d
been to ten different countries before I was 15 and that I’ve read more books
and materials on more topics than he ever will. I very much wanted to tell him
what a low life he was for writing what he did about my wife and the mother of
I wanted to point out that his complete lack of compassion regarding
my health issues (his other email) would make a real Buddhist cringe. But I did
not. Instead, I printed and copied his two emails, with my email answering his memo,
and distributed them to colleagues, the dean, and the vice president of
I heard a lot about people’s shock at the content of his
emails, but nothing was done to remove him as coordinator despite a clear lack
of emotional, ethical, and professional suitability to work in a leadership
In fact, no one from the dean’s or vice president’s offices even called
me to talk about the emails. If someone in the administration had acted on what
I shared with them in November, perhaps I would not have had to get three
stitches in the back of my head in February; perhaps my family and I would not
be experiencing the difficulties we are now. (The story is not yet finished.)
After the attack, I finished my interviews (off campus) and
grades (using Excel instead of the Thai program) and emailed them on March 21
to two Thai ajarns in the English Program. I did not want to see my assailant
again unless it was at the police station. Not wanting anyone to have to do too
much work on my behalf, I learned how and tidied up my Excel grade files to
print more like the Thai program and sent them again, this time to three Thai
ajarns in the program, on March 30. I also asked in both emails if someone
could check Mr. F’s desk (in the same group office as my attacker’s) to see if
there were any other materials I could examine in trying to figure out how to
give Mr. F’s students their grades. I got no answer to either email.
In April, I sent two letters to both the dean’s office and
vice president’s office, again asking for help in checking out Mr. F’s desk and
the house he’d been renting (through my attacker) and abandoned when he fled
During the entire month of March, I didn’t hear a thing (call,
memo, or email) from the university. In April, there were three memos and a
couple phone calls from the dean’s office (April 2 and 19), asking me to come
to a meeting the next day about my “summer workload,” but not a word in either
the calls or the memos about the status of my attacker and the incident nor my
doing the university a big favor by trying to complete the work of someone who
up and left without doing any of his students’ grades. Actually, for both
calls, I was in Chiang Mai, seeing my doctor and consulting legal advisors and
sage friends about what to do next.
I was also tired of being a prisoner in my
own apartment; many people had cautioned me to be very careful going out and
about in the town I was working in; some young men from my classes acted as
bodyguards when I did go out. (He had been stupid enough to attack me in front
of a half dozen witnesses the first time!)
On April 25, I waited outside the vice president’s office
for three hours to speak with him (the dean over English couldn’t understand
any English and I didn’t trust his interpreters). The vice president said he
had read my letter of the day before and talked about “rules” and “culture.”
said my not signing in at the office had nothing to do with the criminal case.
Wrong! I was the common denominator in both, and the university had done
nothing to make me feel safe enough to return to my office. As for “culture,”
well, what he was trying to pass off as “cultural” I didn’t stick around to
find out. They have “rules” for signing in but no rules for attacking another teacher
and sending him to the hospital for stitches in the back of his head? Or did
that fall under the “culture” which farangs should not try to change?
I also found out for the first time during this meeting,
after spending nearly two months working on figuring out grades for the guy who
left, that I “didn’t have to do that; the dean said he will take care of it.”
How? Was someone else going to have the time to figure out how to grade all
those finals which were not based on a textbook but handouts which had
disappeared and for which there were no answer keys?
Was someone else going to
have the time to figure out and write suitable secondary tests which the
students might actually learn something from as they took them? Was someone
else prepared to take on the responsibility of grading the extra exams when the
next semester started and the students returned?
Back to my “summer workload”: Wasn’t getting nearly 200
students their grades more important than some silly “summer project”? Okay, so
I knew about “summer projects” when I decided to try to help (even though I
didn’t have to) with the unfinished work of the guy who up and left.
readers the dean had lost my confidence vote when he wanted me to “accept an
apology and a little money” from my attacker and “give him one more chance.” As
time went on, I had less and less interest in having anything to do with
someone who lacked the moral, professional, and social backbone to take quick,
decisive action when one of his faculty members seriously hurt another.
Incidentally, the contract I signed does mention “serious misbehavior” as a
reason for “rescission” of the contract. Might that include giving someone else
a concussion, stitches, and a bloody shirt collar? However, the same contract
does NOT mention anything about “summer projects” for foreign contract teachers
or the possibility (threat) of withholding all of one’s pay for the months of
April and May in connection with them.
Flashback to summer 2011: After finishing grades for the
2010 academic year, I got to work revising the materials for Oral Communication
I and II. When my first summer at the campus began (after 2/2009), the young
woman who was program coordinator at the time gave us project proposal forms
and deadlines. For the summer after 2/2010, the program’s leadership had
changed. This time, Mr. Coordinator did not come around with a project proposal
form or a schedule or anything. I had no reason to believe things would be any
different from my first summer, when my pay had arrived in the ATM every month
on time, and set to work myself.
On April 18 last year, I was approached by the then-deputy
dean and told half of my project was due that very day—no word at all before
this. In talking with foreign colleagues across campus, I learned they still
had another week before the first part was due.
My pay for the month of April
was three days late. Mr. Coordinator informed me (again, only verbally) of the
May deadline, but when it came, I still needed the weekend to finish writing
(from my own head) the last four or five pages. I turned my completed project
in on May 23, 2010—six full working days before payday, on which I received no
Two days after payday, I was called to the now former dean’s office and
told my project was “not acceptable” and “did not follow format”—the first time
I’d heard anything about either of these: two weeks after the final deadline!
There’d been no descriptions or samples of acceptable vs. unacceptable
projects; there had been no style sheet or description of format. When I asked
what the required format was–MLA, APA, LSA? –the answer was “Up to you.”
However, my pay was withheld for three weeks. I had meetings
with the same vice president who talked about “rules” and “culture.” I finally
sent several emails to the Ministry of Labor to point out, chiefly, that the
summer project was not even in the contract signed by the university and by me;
I never heard back from the Ministry of Labor, but my pay did arrive soon
after. [As a side note: What happens to all that money that comes up from
Bangkok for farang teachers when they leave or are fired months before their
contracts are completed? That’s a lot of money. Where does it wind up?]
A little more about the “summer project”: Last year, because
nine weeks is not enough time to write an entire course book from scratch, I
decided to take a very good book a friend had given me a copy of and divide it
into two semesters. That meant that in addition to the six chapters per
semester, a lot of extra material related to those chapters had to be created
I have no problem with that. Alternatively, after talking with a
non-career teacher across campus, I found out it was likely “the committee”
would accept a simple RE-typing of an already well-written, well-designed book
from a Western publisher like Longman or Macmillan but with your name on it. I
do have a problem with that, two in fact: it’s against the law (plagiarism)
and, more importantly, it’s a waste of time!
Back to the April 25 meeting this year with the vice
president: during the months of March and April (until this date), there had
been not one word about my ‘not having to do’ the grading for Mr. F’s students
despite the fact that I had repeatedly mentioned it in emails, letters, phone
calls, and a couple times in person, and despite the fact that quite probably
no one else in the program had neither the time, nor the inclination, to take
on such a large responsibility. I got up and walked out of the meeting; I knew
what I had to do next.
Earlier that day, I had received another phone call from the
dean’s office. This time it was about my grades, which they claimed I’d not
turned in yet. This was April 25. As I write above, I had originally emailed
five worksheets in one email to two Thai ajarns in the Program on March 21. I
emailed the worksheets again on March 30 to three Thai ajarns. (Both times, I
sent copies to myself, and they remain in my inbox today.)
I thought maybe one
of these three good colleagues would bother to acknowledge receipt of the email
and forward the files to someone who could take care of them (maybe one of the
girls at the faculty offices who sit around all day watching TV or YouTube or
playing Facebook). “Thanks, we’ll take care of them!”
On May 1, after I did not get any pay the day before for the
month of April, I took a CD with my five Excel grade files to the dean. He was
standing outside talking to two other ajarns, one of whom I considered a
friend. Despite having another semester (1/2012) left on my contract, I handed
the dean the CD along with my hand-written data sheets and said, “I quit.”
didn’t understand, and my friend had to translate for him. The dean still
wanted to talk, motioning for me to join him in his office. (On April 25, the
vice president had emphatically said to me: “The dean doesn’t want to talk to
you anymore.” A lie?) Then, I went home, loaded up my stuff, and left town.
(One of my students called me on May 21 to ask about her grade. Apparently,
even after I personally handed him the CD three weeks before, the dean’s office
still had not done its job. And let’s not forget: the day of the attack, Mr.
Coordinator still had my grade sheets from the semester previous. Does anyone
withhold their money for not getting their work done in a timely manner?)
I did not write a resignation letter and sign it because I’d
read many times doing so would preclude the possibility of my filing for
severance pay. I knew May 1 was going to be the two-and-a-half year mark for
me. I knew also I’d need a letter from the university to cancel my visa
properly. I didn’t want to be out of the country and get tripped up at a
consulate despite having a wife and child here. (I do my best to go along with
On May 31, I received the letter I had to show Immigration.
It said my contract ended on April 1. (I’d actually quit May 1.) By changing
this little fact, the administration is trying to get out of having to pay me
three months’ severance pay. I do have the memos to me from the dean’s office
dated after April 1, as if I were still employed. By “ending” my contract on
April 1, the administrators are also trying to cover up the fact that they
illegally held my pay for April for something not in the contract. (Much like
their trying to cover up not doing anything about those hostile emails three
months before the attack.) The university’s letter also noted my work permit
had been cancelled May 28. The letter was dated May 30. It arrived at a
friend’s house May 31.
Both Thai Immigration and the Thai Police have both been
very helpful to me these last few months. Thai friends and acquaintances I’ve
told the story to have also been sympathetic and supportive. However, the
administrators at that university have not been exemplary in their “good
social.” In fact, though they think they are saving face, they are really only
bringing more shame on themselves, on their university, and sadder still, on
the country. Is this the kind of face Thailand wants to present to ASEAN and
What happened to the students, mine and Mr. F’s, and the
courses for which they did not get grades because I was told (LATE) I “didn’t
have to do that”? Well, in addition to their full load of new classes this
semester, they had to retake Mr. F’s classes in an abbreviated, five-week
schedule, taught by (you guessed it) my assailant, who was still allowed to
teach the 1/2012 semester despite having been arrested for committing a violent
crime and, hopefully, facing a date in court in the near future.
Me, I’m still
looking for enough work to make as much money as I was working at a university
that thought it more important to protect a sociopathic criminal than to keep
one the best qualified career professionals they’ve ever had. (NB: This same
campus is where, several years ago, alleged administrative callousness caused
another farang to go on a border run while very ill and end up dying of that
illness in a neighboring country.)