11 July 2024

Education Minister Treenuch Thienthong has made clear that she will not accept the excuse from the teacher or driver that they did not know that the 7-year-old schoolgirl, who was found dead Tuesday afternoon, was locked in the school van for most of the day.

The girl apparently fell asleep in the back seat of the van during the morning journey to the school in Pan Thong district, Chon Buri province, and was not discovered until 4pm, when the driver returned to use the vehicle to take students home.

The minister sent the secretary-general of the Office of Private Education Promotion Commission, Peerasak Rattana, to the school yesterday (Wednesday) to gather the facts surrounding the tragedy.

The minister said that there are clear safety rules regarding the use of school buses, which should be strictly observed by all schools which provide a school bus service.

One of them clearly specifies that the teacher who is assigned to each school bus or van must check the number of children boarding and alighting, to make sure that they match. Another is that the teacher must be with the vehicle all the time when there are children on board.

“An excuse that they didn’t see any students being left in a school bus is unacceptable,” said the minister.

Police in Pan Thong district have, so far, questioned seven witnesses and will invite the victim’s parents to make a statement. They said that charges of negligence causing death to another person will be filed against the van driver and the teacher assigned to the van in question.

The victim’s parents visited the morgue at the Police General Hospital yesterday, to see their late daughter. Afterwards, they asked officials to keep the body of their daughter there for a couple of days, because they are still struggling to cope with the tragedy, and that they will return to take the body back home for a proper funeral.

Officials at the Institute of Forensic Medicine said they cankeep the body only until Saturday.

Meanwhile Narumon Mekborisut, deputy director of the Foundation for Consumers, claimed that many school buses and vans have been illegally modified and do not meet safety standards, adding that some of the drivers are not fit to drive school vehicles at all, because they are negligent and reckless.

She also said that many parents, teachers, students and drivers lack an understanding of what a safe school bus service actually is.