ABOVE: Bangkok University students engage in “rub nong” in a photo posted last month. Photo: Bangkok University
A 16-year-old freshman of a Pathum Thani college died yesterday west of Bangkok after participating in a beachside hazing ritual.
A group of students dropped the boy’s body off at a Hua Hin hospital emergency room and quickly left after telling medical staff that he had drowned. Emergency room staff discovered the student had been dead for an hour.
The boy had been one of 40 students participating in hazing activities for freshmen, also known as rub nong, on Sai Noi Beach. Manager identified the school as the Pathum Thani Technical College.
The student had been diagnosed with leukemia several years ago.
Aside from hazing activities throughout the night, the students were making campfires and drinking, eyewitnesses said.
One of them was Em-orn Kongkaew, a restaurant owner on Sai Noi beach, who saw seniors command freshmen to line up in the sea. The older students then kicked the freshmen into the water. One of the seniors later noticed a student lying face down in the sand, she said.
“I feel pity for the boy who died because he was so young. I feel sorry for his parents,” Em-orn told Khaosod English. “The authorities should take care of this. I don’t want any other further rub nong incidents that kill people like this.”
The boy’s father, Panupong Saengrojrat, told the media his son had merely asked permission to join a school trip to the sea. He had urged the boy not to consume alcohol.
“I received phone call from his friends this morning that he was at the hospital,” Panupong said. “We hurried to see him, but he’d already passed away.”
After the boy’s parents arrived at the hospital, his 30 classmates turned themselves in to the police, who then interrogated them and other witnesses.
Charges will be filed after police examine undergoing autopsy reports, authorities said.
“The students who participated in rub nong activities insisted [the boy] died on his own, not because he was assaulted,” said police Col. Ranapob Pattana, an officer at Hua Hin Police Station. “However, I have sent the body for an autopsy at the Police Hospital to find a clear cause of death.”
Rub nong rituals, which are meant to initiate freshmen into the university, are commonplace at many universities. Some have friendlier ceremonies whereas other opt for more violent and controversial activities involving physical abuse.
Progressive student activists have campaigned to end the tradition, but others argue it promotes “SOTUS” – Seniority, Order, Tradition, Unity and Spirit – among freshmen.