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Monday, 30 April 2012

When it looks like a duck...

It's well known that when it comes to the quality of its education and intellectual rigour, Thailand rarely ever fares well on either count. No surprise then that yet another shot across its educational bow has come with the news that yet another senior academic in an ivy league university in Thailand, Chulalongkorn University, has been found to have plagiarised 80% of his doctoral thesis.

On Andrew Drummond's site, well known for exposing the hyprocisy of things occuring on a daily basis in Thailand, not just in educational circles, but elsewhere, is an article that should make all people connecetd with education in Thailand quiver with shame. Here's what he had to say:

A  newspaper story about how the director of Thailand’s ‘National Innovation Agency’ allegedly plagiarised his PhD thesis and an academic paper about organic asparagus production from other academics, has been given new life in the British'Times Higher Educational' this week.
In a story of intrigue, machiavellian legal cases, and journalistic ethics, Britain's most prestigious higher education magazine, formerly known as the Times Educational Supplement is asking why nothing has been done.

The magazine, says that concerns continue to be raised into why Chulalongkorn University has failed to take any action against Supachai Lorlowhakarn,  Director of the NIA, who has been accused of plagiarising both his PhD thesis and an NIA sponsored academic paper about organic asparagus production.

The obvious question is not just why these stories keep popping up, but why nothing is ever done when they do? I guess a lot of it is to do with the loss of face and shame that occurs and how few if anyone well connected in Thailand is ever willing to do anything about it.

“Times Higher Education understands that an internal investigation by the university concluded in April 2010 that 80 per cent of Dr Lorlowhakarn's thesis was plagiarised from several sources, including a United Nations technical assistance report and a field study in organic asparagus production commissioned by his agency. 

"Dr Lorlowhakarn did not respond to requests by THE for comment.” said the article’s author Paul Jump.
“Chulalongkorn's governing council is reported to have appointed another committee in January 2011 to consider whether Dr Lorlowhakarn's PhD should be revoked, but the university has released no information on the subject and did not respond to THE enquiries.”
The original story was published in the 'Bangkok Post' but later the newspaper pulled the story from the web after a deal struck with Dr. Lorlowhakarn.

'Dr'. Lorlowhakarn took out libel suits against Erika Fry (left), the American reporter who exposed the alleged plagiaristic acts in the ‘Bangkok Post’, and also the newspaper’s editor and the publisher. 
Dr. Wyn Ellis, an agricultural consultant, the man who complained about his and his colleagues work being copied, received ten law suits alone, nine of which have either been withdrawn or dismissed, such as one brought by the National Innovation Agency itself. Wyn Ellis put academic integrity above Thai cultural sensitivities and in fact claimed he had warned Dr. Lorlowhakarn about against taking his intended actions.
Dr. Ellis (right) claimed that since the controversy reared up he has had bricks thrown at his car smashing the rear windscreen, and received multiple visits from Immigration and tax authorities. Work of course is harder to come by, not because his reputation has been tarnished in any way but because he has become a hot potato.
Apirux Wanasathop, a former member of the National Innovation Agency board, said that Chulalongkorn must punish Dr Lorlowhakarn if it wanted to live up to its slogan of being "the pillar of the kingdom," reported the Times Higher Educational Supplement.

“It’s a shame to the country, the Ministry and the University.”

Erika Fry left Thailand while on bail. She survived and is currently working as a journalist on the political campaign trail in the U.S.
But last year she reported in article headlined 'Escape from Thailand' in the Columbia Journalism Review that she did not believe the assurance of the editors of the Bangkok Post and gave the impression that they were hanging out herself and Ellis, the foreign journalist and foreign professor, to dry as a matter of Thai expediency.
Of the article itself she said:

"The evidence of all this, particularly the plagiarism, was beyond dispute, and the article had been vetted by lawyers and editors at the Post, the English-language newspaper for which I had worked since 2006."

As someone who regulary writes on educational topics within Thailand, I am both apalled and saddened that nothing is ever done, and these people who get into positions of power and influence are rarely if ever punished for this kind of unethical behaviour. Is it any wonder then that Thailand ranks at the bottom of so many league tables and where corruption, plagiarism, and cheating in exams is rife? If the people in power are behaving in this way, what examples are they setting for those in lower seats of learning: undergraduates and postgraduates? 

When Thailand eventually becomes a full member of ASEAN in 2015, one wonders if it will be able to maximise benefit or will it be the case that many of the people in high positions of power will be exposed for what they are: complete frauds. These people should be rooted out and exposed.

Like the saying goes, "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, IT IS A DUCK!"

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