Since 19 year old student Padyos “Prem” Chonpakdi was beaten to death, allegedly by university students in a violent initiation ceremony on Sunday in Nakhon Ratchasima, seven upper-level students have confessed to using excessive violence against Prem which lead to his death.
Prem was forced to undress, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, sing and was punched in the stomach and chest, reports in Thai media say. When Prem lost consciousness and couldn’t breathe, the students took him to the hospital, but Prem died before he arrived.
Prem’s body was sent to an institute of forensic pathology for an autopsy and a blood test revealed Prem was infected with Covid-19 when he died. Police are still investigating whether any more students are also responsible for Prem’s death. Prem’s family, including his wife who is three months pregnant, held a ceremony at the initiation site to invite Prem’s spirit back home which was attended by over 20 upper-level students involved in the hazing incident.
On March 14, Prem’s parents came to the university to meet with the investigating police officers and the students involved. Prem’s 55 year old father Ekachai Chonpakdi said that a group of six students, bowing on their knees and apologising, admitted physically attacking Prem and confessed that Prem’s death was caused by acts of excessive violence. Police summoned the six, and one more student, to the police station for interrogation. All seven students confessed and plead guilty to beating Prem to death. The students said that the university was not responsible for the incident, which took place outside the university’s grounds.
Senior students deceived Prem and other juniors by inviting them to play football in a rice field about 10 kilometres away from the Rajamangala University of Technology. However, the seniors had planned an initiation ceremony involving different “rounds,” which have been described by a first-year student who was also subject to the initiation.
In the first round, the first-year students had to sing and crawl in the water of a rice paddy field. In the second round, first-year students were forced to undress and sing so they could receive a “black shirt.” The woman did not have to undress but was forced to stay and watch the men. In the third round, the naked students were forced to sing and crawl to the upper-level students. Whoever sang “incorrectly” would be punched in the stomach and chest by seven students.
After Prem was beaten, he lost consciousness, couldn’t breathe and his mouth turned pale. The seniors took Prem to the hospital, but he died before he arrived. A junior who was subject to the initiation said 38 junior students were present and 32 senior students.
On Monday evening, Prem’s relatives and more than 20 upper-level students allegedly involved in the initiation gathered at the site of the incident to conduct a ceremony to invite Prem’s spirit back home, offering water, food and snacks. Prem’s wife, who is three months pregnant, attended the ceremony. In a video, Prem’s relatives are heard scolding the senior students for their actions.
Chancellor of Rajamangala University Kosit Sriputhon issued a statement in which he said the university strictly prohibits initiation ceremonies of any kind whether they are on or off-campus. The university agreed to coordinate with police to investigate the facts of the crime so that whoever is responsible will be prosecuted. Kosit said any students found guilty will be expelled from the university. The university is waiting for the outcome of the criminal case before taking disciplinary action.
Prem’s father Ekachai said…
“These violent initiation ceremonies have happened before many times. I’ve seen them on the news and felt sorry for the victim’s families. Now it has happened to our family, I am in a lot of pain. All parents have hopes for their children. When I heard Prem had died I was so sad that I fainted. I never thought this would happen to my son. We sent our son to school with hopes and dreams but now they have come to an end. I can’t accept it. The prosecution will be carried out to the fullest.”
Prem’s 42 year old Mother Nittaya Chonpakdi said that, although Prem’s friends had told her Prem was punched in the chest, she couldn’t fathom the extent of the violence against Prem, because Prem was strong and a single punch to the chest would not kill him. Prem’s mother asked the students to never do this again. She wants Prem’s case to be the last case like this.
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