A student who could not swim drowned after a female teacher allegedly made him play a game in a pond while she drank whiskey on the shore with her friends.
Nopphakao Sitha, 15, visited the lake with classmates on a boy scout trip before they were ordered into the water in Kalasin province, Thailand on March 16.
The teacher allegedly made them play a game called ‘Escaping the Battlefield Sequence’. She threw rocks at them, pretending they were bombs, and the boys had to duck into the three-metre deep pond to dodge the objects.
Tragically, the youngster allegedly drowned while the teacher, Erawadee Phukongchai, stayed on the shore drinking with friends and the other boys went home – without anyone noticing he was missing.
His mother, Buachuen Sitha, 48, became concerned when her son did not return home later that evening. She went to camp where the teacher said the lads had already returned home.
With Nopphakao nowhere to be seen, the emergency services began searching the pond and recovered his body.
The devastated mother said: ‘My son was afraid of water. He would not go in unless he was forced. When I asked them to help search, I saw them drinking in the school.’
Nongkhan Samaksaman, the boy’s aunt, added: ‘The teachers told us they didn’t know where to find as if they didn’t care and told us to find the boy by ourselves.’
The boy’s relatives started searching and called the police and rescuers to help as she realised he could not swim and might have drowned in the pond.
They spent four hours looking around before they found his body. The family was devastated and demanded an investigation on the incident to bring justice to Pon’s life.
The teacher, Erawadee Phukongchai, said: ‘The student was not forced to go into the water. We checked the number of students and found no one missing. I am stressed too. Students are like our children.’
The lad’s best friend said that he did not see Pon come out of the pond in the afternoon but did not expect that he would drown.
He said: ‘Teachers told us to submerge in the water while they were watching. When we left, I didn’t see him but I didn’t tell anyone. I thought he went home earlier.’
Sunthara Kulasa, the school’s director claimed that teachers checked the safety of the camp and watched over the students all the time.
He said that the purpose of ‘Escaping the Battlefield Sequence’ game in the water was to encourage students to wash themselves.
He said: ‘The teachers did not force them to get into the water. Anyone who could not swim was exempted and teachers checked their names before going into the pond. In the morning, one student did not participate in the activities and teachers, therefore, did not put his name on the checklist.’
The director claimed that the school helped them by calling everyone who was around the pond when the boy went missing and ensured that teachers did not drink alcohol. He also expressed the regrets and condolences toward the victim’s family.
Police are now investigating the death and waiting for the results of a post-mortem examination. They said that two bottles of liquor were also found in the scene.
Police Major General Sonakun Sabsombat from the Huai Mek police station said: ‘The interrogation will begin today. We will gather evidence from all of the people involved and check the results from the hospital once the cause of death is confirmed.’
The police reported that they found no safety equipment such as life jackets and swimming rings. The deep water warning sign was also not placed in the pond.