Thai-born Harvard dentist accused of welching on multi-million baht scholarship debt to Mahidol

Netizens have slammed a Thai-born instructor at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine after she was accused of skipping out on debts in Thailand totalling over THB30 million.

In a scandal that has attracted huge attention on social media this week, Dr Dolrudee Jumlongras allegedly received a scholarship in 1993 from her alma mater, Mahidol University, to study at the prestigious US university.

Four Thais guaranteed her THB8 million scholarship, according to one of the guarantors, Dr Padej Poonwithayakij, a dentist who knew Dolrudee through a lecturer at Mahidol University when he was studying for a diploma there back in 1993.

He says Dolrudee was expected to eventually pay off the loan by returning to Thailand and working at Mahidol following her graduate studies.

Padej claims that Dolrudee has spent almost 10 years in the US completing masters and doctoral degrees at Harvard, during which she has married and resigned from her post at Mahidol University. Padej further claims that she has broken the scholarship’s contract and left her four guarantors on the hook for her debt, which has grown to THB30 million.

The scandal came to light this week after Padej posted on Facebook a photo of a receipt, dated Jan. 19, which he said showed he had paid THB2.2 million to the university for his share of Dolrudee’s debt of THB8 million, the amount paid recently by the four guarantors after they negotiated with the university in court.

“It’s done. I have paid for my karma with millions of baht for Dolrudee, a former instructor at the Faculty of Dentistry of Mahidol University who received a scholarship to study in America,” Padej wrote in the public Facebook post, which has since been taken down.

Coconuts has requested comment from Dolrudee, Padej, and Harvard University.

A screenshot of the Facebook post, which identified Doluree Jamlongras, has been circulating online.

“For the benefit of the faculty and our profession, I signed the guarantee along with a lecturer, colleague [at Mahidol University] and friend of Dolrudee Jamlongras, hoping she’d return to do good for the public.

“But the only answer she gave us was she had no money when she is working as a researcher at Harvard University, receives a high salary and lives in a luxurious apartment in America.”

The website of Harvard School of Dental Medicine lists Dolrudee as an instructor in Developmental Biology and said she completed her PhD at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in 2003.

Padej, a father-of-four who says he had to take out a loan to repay the Harvard graduate’s debt, told Jor Kao Den on Wednesday that he didn’t know her personally, but had agreed to sign the surety bond back in 1993 along with three other other guarantors for the benefit of the public.

It is unclear what discussions, if any, there were between the university, the Harvard instructor and the guarantors between 2003 and the present day.

The TV show, hosted by famous anchor Sorayuth Suthassanachinda, did not name the instructor or the university in their report, only referring to a “prestigious US university.”

However, the show broadcast the same screenshot from Pradej’s Facebook post which identified her employment at Harvard University, although it blurred out the instructor’s name.

Auichai Iriyawiriyasakul, a representative from Mahidol University, told Morning News the scholarship had been granted on condition that the Harvard instructor would return to work at the Thai university for a period that was three times the length of her studies at the US university.

As she did not return, she owed the university triple the amount of her tuition with a fine, which totaled over THB30 million, the representative said.

The four guarantors negotiated with the university in court and agreed to pay about THB8 million, the actual cost of the student loan.

“We’ve asked her [to pay], but she hired a lawyer and told us not to mess with her. She only said she didn’t have the money,” Padej told Jor Kao Den.

“How could she do this? The guarantors included her teacher who recommended her to study abroad in the first place. The teacher called her and she only responded: ‘You called for the money?'”

A letter on behalf of Harvard University President Drew Faust, dated March 23, 2015, which was published by Isara News, said the US university would not provide any assistance as it was a private matter.

Padej said Dolrudee has only sent back USD50,000 (THB1.78 million) for the four guarantors to split between them.

The four had come to terms with the unfair situation, and decided not to file a lawsuit against the Harvard instructor, he said.

Padej added that he considered that he had paid off his karmic debts.

“I wanted her to do good for our profession and the faculty. I posted on Facebook to take things off my mind and warn the public,” he told Jor Kao Den.

“Everyone is disappointed in her. I don’t know what’s on her mind now. Everyone feels sorry we had pay her debt. Some of us had to get a loan.”

In the Isara News report, Padej said the Harvard instructor couldn’t face up to repaying her debts when Mahidol said they had tripled in value.

“Let’s say before you take a scholarship, you know your responsibilities and conditions. If you don’t agree, you just don’t take the scholarship,” Padej said.

The scandal has gone viral on social media as many Thai netizens took to Facebook to comment on pages related to Harvard University, warning other staff about the doctor in English.

“This is not a personal issue. Harvard administrators and the academic community should exercise some moral responsibility to maintain social justice and fairness,” wrote user Vipatsaya Ome U-poon.

Coconuts has requested comments from Dolrudee, Padej and Harvard University. We will update the story if we receive a response.

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