Korat students whose hazing killed freshman to be charged with assault

Padyot “Prem” Chonphakdi.
Padyot “Prem” Chonphakdi.

Seven students linked to the death of a freshmen during a hazing ritual at a Korat university will be charged with physical assault today, police said.

The seven, none of whom was identified by the authorities, are accused of organizing a hazing ritual at Rajamangala University Technology of Isan where first-year students were forced to drink excessively and then beaten, resulting in the death of Padyot “Prem” Chonphakdi on Sunday night.

“The whole incident wasn’t meant to kill him,” one of the suspects told reporters inside the police station with his hoodie obscuring his face. “I feel sorry for what has happened and take full responsibility for everything and will comply with the law.”

The incident was brought to light by an online community which has long called attention to the victims of Thai hazing rituals.

On Sunday, upperclassmen invited freshmen students to play football, then plied them with vast amounts of alcohol, then beat them. Prem, 19, was the only fatality among the 60 students in attendance.

One of the seniors punched Prem in the tongue, knocking him to the ground unconscious. After attempts at resuscitating the 19-year-old student failed, his classmates called an ambulance to take him to Fort Sunaree Hospital, where he died of his injuries.

Prem’s father, Ekachai Chonphakdi, traveled to Nakhon Ratchasima province from his home in southern Nakhon Si Thammarat to retrieve his son’s body. The seniors reportedly lied, telling him his son had been injured during a football game before eventually owning up and prostrating before the father.

Prem’s body was autopsied yesterday. 

“The university condemns the actions of students who violate university rules, and ask all students to be aware of the serious consequences,” the school said yesterday in a statement signed by professor Kosit Sriputhon. “The university is ready to take the highest disciplinary actions against students who break such rules in this matter.”

Most universities formally forbid hazing rituals known as “SOTUS,” an acronym for Seniority, Order, Tradition, Unity, Spirit. But they’ve been accused of turning a blind eye to the bizarre and often violent rites to which many freshmen are subjected.

The purpose of such activities is meant to reinforce the social hierarchy by teaching respect for seniority. Hazing ceremonies usually include faculty supervision, but students also organize their own trips to perform rituals involving humiliation and, occasionally, death.

In 2019, a 15-year-old boy received a fatal kick in the chest from his seniors. He ended up in a coma and died a month later. In 2014, a dead 16-year-old freshman was dumped at a hospital after being kicked into the water. Other incidents, while not fatal, have just been weird.

The Anti-SOTUS page noted that when the practice, called rub nong, results in death, the perpetrators usually receive lenient sentences.

“The rub nong until death that occurs almost every year is under the Juvenile Justice system,” it wrote. “Those responsible for the deaths are sentenced to no more than two years of imprisonment. Some don’t even go to jail.”

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