By The Nation
Asst Professor Brother Vinai Viriyavidhayavongs, who heads one of Thailand’s most distinguished boys-only schools, was hit by a scandal after hundreds of students, parents and alumni rallied against him on the school’s grounds yesterday.
Bowing to pressure, he agreed to step aside to pave the way for investigations into his alleged wrongdoings.
“I will welcome an investigation,” he said, while denying allegations against him.
In an attempt to defuse loud protests by students, parents and alumni, he also tendered a request for his own suspension yesterday.
Hundreds of protesters rallied at the St Gabriel’s College for hours until they were shown Vina’s written request for his suspension in the afternoon.
According to protesters, Vinai renovated a room at the school and bought new furniture to provide accommodation for a specialist he had recruited.
However, the group stated that the specialist had been rude and allegedly used Vinai’s name to demand reimbursements against school regulations.
The protesters said they also suspected that Vinai had had an affair with a consultant, who remained unidentified yesterday.
Protesters said they were also angry that the school had begun offering students salty snacks for lunch.
There have also been complaints about unusual staff pay rises, the use of school funds in a Bt70-million investment made under the name of a single individual and other questionable disbursement issues.
Admiral Pajun Tamprateep, a close aide to Privy Council President and statesman General Prem Tinsulanonda, was among the protesters yesterday.
According to the school’s rules, the director of St Gabriel’s College cannot quit on his own because only the St Gabriel’s Foundation has the authority to decide who governs its schools, which was why Vinai wrote to the foundation asking for his suspension.
“I am not stubborn,” Vinai said. “If St Gabriel’s doesn’t want me, I will leave.”
A parent representative, Kasem Jamninkul, said he was satisfied with Vinai’s response.
“He has agreed to provide explanations and give up his role as the school’s director,” he said.
Kasem added that he expected the St Gabriel’s Foundation to launch an investigation soon.
He said he trusted that the foundation would not try to protect Vinai if evidence confirmed his wrongdoing.
Protesters also received assurances yesterday that students protesting against Vinai would not face punitive action.
Established in 1920, St Gabriel’s has educated many prominent figures in Thailand. Alumni include high-profile figures such as Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon and Privy Councillor and former prime minister General Surayud Chulalont.