Accused school chief says he was framed

Nathaphop Boonthongtho, 51-year-old director of Patong Thanoen Samakkhi School in Bua Yai district of Nakhon Ratchasima, has been accused of multiple inappropriate actions with 13-year-old girls - including at least one 'marriage'. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)


NAKHON RATCHASIMA: A school director accusead of "an affair" with a girl he called "dear wife" claims he was defamed by Line chat messages doctored by somebody dissatisfied with his work.

The 51-year-old director, Nathaphop Boonthongtho, insisted on his innocence during a phone interview with the Bangkok Post on Sunday as he was preparing to turn himself in to police on Wednesday to fight charges of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl and depriving her of parental care.

"The words 'darling' and 'dear wife' which they say I posted were a result of changed messages," Mr Nathaphop said.

The Line chat messages, which have become known to the public, are believed to substantiate his intimate relationship with a Mathayom 2 student (Grade 8, 13 years old, now 14) at Wat Ban Patong Tha Neon Samakkhee School in Nakhon Ratchasima's Bua Yai district.

In the messages, the girl allegedly addressed him as "darling".

Mr Nathaphop alleges the doctored conversations may have resulted from a conflict over his work at the school. Someone who disliked his management as he had only been appointed to the post for just three months, he said.

"I've made changes to many things, which might have affected the old system," he said. "This later became an issue."

Mr Nathaphop believes a photo that shows him embracing the Mathayom 2 student's shoulder is also part of the plot to disgrace him.

The school head was suspended from work when Suwit Sichai, acting chief of Nakhon Ratchasima Provincial Education Office, stepped in and appointed a panel to conduct a disciplinary probe last week.

Both the permanent secretary for education and Nakhon Ratchasima governor expressed grave concerns over the scandal because it dealt a blow to the image of teachers, which they said "have been highly respected in Thai society".

Senior authorities want the panel to speed up the investigation. But this also depends on whether Mr Nathaphop will cooperate, Mr Suwit said.

The girl has already reported the matter to police. She is now living with her mother at a state-owned youth welfare facility in Nakhon Ratchasima, and is trying to come to terms with the trauma, a source at the facility said.

Authorities are preparing to transfer her to another school.

The other suspect in the sexual abuse case is a Mathayom 3 boy, who is the girl's former boyfriend. He is also facing the same charges as Mr Nathaphop, following a complaint the girl's mother lodged with police.

The accusation angered the boy's mother who insisted her son did nothing wrong.

The mother, who asked not to be named, admitted her son had developed an intimate relationship with the girl one year ago, but he never acted against her will.

It was the girl who "ran toward my son" when her mother allegedly asked the boy's mother to take care of the girl and started talking about dowries, she said.

In response to the fresh complaint against her son, the mother said she is planning to file a counter lawsuit against the girl as she suspected the girl might have sexually abused her son, who was only 14 at the time.



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