FOREIGN TEACHER SCAM IN THAILAND – With the looming membership into the Asean Economic Community (AEC) Thailand desperately needs to educate its population with the skill of speaking the English language.
Whist other neighbouring nations long ago adopted the policy of teaching English in their schools Thailand’s nationalistic belief that English was not an important issue now leaves it in a precarious situation; for the Thai Government now fully realizes just how critical this element is to enable Thailand to compete on an international level with other AEC members.
The Thai Government, over the past 3 years, has continuously spoken of change in the education system and yet little has been achieved to advance the learning of the English language in schools.
Late last year the Thai Government announced measures to make special working visas for foreign nationals, whose native language is English, to come to Thailand and work in schools.
Nearly one year on and with the Thai Government pushing back its inauguration into AEC, little appears to have been achieved; leaving many to suspect that the Thai Government, come 2016, will again delay its presence in the AEC.
The official Thai slogan for Thailand, or at least one of them, is ‘The Land of Smiles’. Unfortunately it is nothing unusual to see this slogan twisted into ‘The Land of Scams’ as Thais are often accused of scamming foreign nationals out of their money.
With the education of paramount importance you might think that the Thai Government would do more to bring in foreign nationals and ensure that such an industry is tightly regulated so as to avoid abuse and therefore more bad press.
Unfortunately this doesn’t appear to be the case as one ‘Foreign Teacher Placement Scheme’ appears to be nothing more than another scam on foreign nationals and if such a practice is allowed to continue it will be little wonder that the Thai Government are unable to attract qualified English speaking teachers to teach in Thailand.
The teacher placement agency is that of ‘Smartkurve’ or as one of its other aliases ‘ESLThailand’, ‘MEPPLUS’, ‘Edknovate’ and ‘Axiom Recruitment’.
All are run by and individual known as Kirk Phatumanum who has built up the unenviable reputation of scamming foreign teacher which is so prolific that it has forced him to change the company name on several occasions.
In a recent investigation it now looks like Kirk Phatumanum now has yet another set of companies; including ‘Quest Club’ but there might be more.
During our investigation we took at look at complaintsboard.com which details a number of very disgruntled, angry and disillusioned foreign teachers; all of whom have had dealings with Kirk Phatumanum and his scam.
We asked one inside source, a foreign teacher of his experience with Kirk Phatumanum:
“I had heard of him when I taught, and avoided him. During my teaching days I went to an interview with ESLThailand and during the interview I was asked by a staff member to write a lesson plan.
I was given a book that had SmartKruve written on it. I asked about it and was then put on a Skype call with Kirk. He could see, and record me, but I could not see him.
I told him that I knew who he was, and would be telling my friends about him. When I left the office he called me back on my cell phone and threatened me.
I went to the police station and spoke with an officer, who called him. I was told by the officer to not worry about it, so I left.
After leaving he called me back and told me that he had a ‘special relationship’ with the police and he could do, or have done, whatever he wanted, with impunity.
He has angered other teachers to the point that they have made it a mission to shut him down. I’m glad meebal.com is writing a piece on him, he deserves it and more people need to know about this scam.”
The scam appears to be an easy one in that Kirk Phatumanum puts up advertisements on Craiglist for English speaking foreign teachers.
It is often the case that foreign teachers are never provided with the proper documentation, which is a work permit, to allow them to legally work in Thailand. Other areas of complaints from those having dealings with Kirk Phatumanum often revolve around the issue of not being paid.
Whilst Kirk Phatumanum is provided payment from the schools in which he has contracts the money often goes straight in his pocket and many foreign teachers have been fleeced out of their rightful salaries.
The scam appears to be like a revolving door in that one teacher is brought in, never paid, and then resigns without any form of payment and is then replaced with his next unsuspecting victim.
Obviously the education establishments, where Kirk Phatumanum has contracts, are aware of the issue but many foreign teachers have expressed their anger that not only do the schools not take positive action they suspect the administrators are in on the scam; that is they are taking a cut from Kirk Phatumanum money making scheme.
Here are a number of other instances of the scam:
Foreign teachers not getting paid – complaintsboard.com
Foreigners speaking out about the scam – iformative.com
Foreign teachers warning others about the scam – exact-academy
The examples are just the tip of the iceberg and anyone thinking of becoming a foreign English teacher in Thailand should Google ‘Kirk Phatumanum’ or any of the companies first so as to realise the true nature of this scam and avoid it.
Another source told us;
“Kirk Phatumanum also purports to have a company in the U.S.A that deals with foreign teachers for Thailand. However people need to be aware that the Government offices in Minnesota recently verified that SMARTKURVE LLC (U.S.A) does not have a legal registered entity in the State of Minnesota or anywhere else in the United States of America.”
Victims of Kirk Phatumanum’s scam are spreading the word as much as possible and if the Thai Government fail to act this could well have a devastating effect on its ability to attract English teachers.
The Thai Government also needs to be fully aware that they are no longer able to suppress information on the internet and whilst they actively continue to block certain websites these are still available worldwide and therefore the message continues to propagate.
The issue here is a double edged sword for if foreign teachers are put off by scams, such as this, it will have a defined impact on the level of education. On a wider issue the lack of education within the Thai population will not allow them to successfully compete with other AEC members it will ultimately have an erroneous impact on the Thai economy.