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Posted 2005-10-02 17:57:30
Khao San diploma mills
A Bangkok boulevard known for its backpackers is becoming a popular destination for 'alumnis' of world renowned institutes of higher learning, writes MAXMILIAN WECHSLER
A by-product of the questionable recruitment by certain agencies of foreigners to teach English are a variety of counterfeit supporting documents for employment. These include fake degrees and diplomas from world famous universities, teacher's certificates and many other types of identification documents such as driving licences and student and press cards.
The matter came to Perspective's attention after an East European tourist named Ivan was approached by a Moroccan who offered him a job as an English language teacher in Thailand (see main front-page story). Ivan later met a fellow "teacher" _ an Irish steel worker _ who told him that it was possible to obtain college degrees at nearby Khao San Road, and that this had been suggested by a job agency to fulfill its "requirements".
Even fake transcripts can be purchased.
A subsequent enquiry conducted by Perspective confirmed that fake documents are indeed openly advertised and sold in no fewer than three locations along Khao San Road. The first attempt to take photographs of the sellers and the handwritten advertisements failed because as soon as they spotted a person with a camera, they quickly packed and walked away. They did not return until the photographer was gone.
A second attempt using a more clandestine method was successful, however, and photos of the signs were taken.
It was easier, however, to buy samples of the counterfeit documents because there was money to be made. All three sellers approached by Perspective on September 24 demanded 3,500 baht for each fake document. However, the next day when a Perspective reporter returned and approached the same sellers the price was suddenly reduced by more than 50 percent.
Accompanied by the Perspective reporter, Ivan made his purchase from a Miss Sompong because she was pretty, friendly, talkative and obviously anxious to make a deal. He asked her for some samples and was brought to the basement of a nearby building where she unlocked a metal box that contained an album with at least 50 black-and-white sample copies of certificates from universities and institutions in Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Ivan was quite surprised to see so many titles.
He decided on the University of Texas and the University of London, as well as TEFL International USA. After some bargaining, Miss Sompong agreed to sell all three certificates for 4,000 baht. Sompong then asked him to write his name on each certificate, and as he came from an East European formerly communist country, Ivan decided to make a little joke by writing on each copy the name of the now-deceased founder of the Bolshevics and the first communist leader of the Soviet Union, Vladimir I. Lenin.
He paid a 3,000 baht deposit. Sompong then made a call from her mobile telephone and told him that the documents would be ready within two hours.
When Ivan returned, the three certificates in a plastic cover were there along with copies. He paid the 1,000 baht balance and then Sompong became even more talkative and "confessed" to exporting fake documents to clients all over the world. She assured him he could order from her as well. She then wrote her name and phone number on a piece of paper and added that a Japanese customer had just ordered from her.
The sellers of fake documents are well aware, as are the agencies providing English teachers, that many foreigners who want to teach in Thailand think they have no choice but to buy the fake document in order to "satisfy" the agency. They spend 3,500 baht per document in order to land a teaching job which pays upwards of 26,000 baht a month.
"However, the fact that they will find out after losing money is that the agency will accept any foreigner without any certificate, and in some instances even without presenting a passport," Ivan said. He now is inclined to believe an African teacher who told him recently that he bought a fake document on Khao San Road under the name of Mickey Mouse. "I thought at the time that he was joking, but obviously it could happen."
By the way, the sellers operate about 200 metres from a local police station.
Here are pictures of the diplomas... Any names can be put on the fake certificate. But these documents could make Vladimir Lenin turn in his grave.
Posted 2005-10-02 19:15:56
It's a well-known "secret" that the agencies in Bangkok seem to have a fast-track on getting people work permits, etc.- certainly seems a lot easier for them than for many schools, even with the low wages they're paying. Of course, that presumes that someone in government is also cooperating! Oops!!!
Posted 2005-10-02 20:40:45
Good heavens! That fake University of London certificate looks almost exactly the same as my genuine Master's certificate from Univ of London! How do the authorities actually identify the fakes from the real thing? (Is it the paper, ink etc? - Just interested to know)
Posted 2005-10-02 21:07:26
I heard that the MOE was buying a muli-million baht machine that could age the paper. This was a couple of years ago, so they might have it by now.
Posted 2005-10-02 21:43:08
TO avoid the machine testing just put this year as when you recieved the degree
Posted 2005-10-02 21:56:18
Having seen many degrees from the univ of KSR, there are a number of indicators. A lot of UK uni fakes are landscape and not portrait. The signatures are a giveaway - peoples signatures change over the years: compare your signature from years ago with today. Signatures on fakes are the same. The same people sign degrees from about 10 universities. Occasionally BA's are awarded when they should be BSc's. They look new - sometimes the recipient tries to age them (excessive creasing, staining with a damp tea-bag) but to no avail. Transcripts for degrees (when no transcripts were given) are on plain unwatermarked paper and sometimes follow the US course and not the British - check the spelling!
How do I know all of this? As a part-time antique dealer with an interest in fakes and copies.
Posted 2005-10-02 22:55:01
It's going to take me a little longer than 2 hours to get my degree; probably about
3 years, 11 months, 29 days, and 22 hours longer to be exact. At least I'll feel good about it when I use it to get a job.
Edited by mbkudu, 2005-10-02 22:55:59.
Posted 2005-10-02 22:55:19
Good point. They didn't start giving transcripts until after I got my degree, I think it was post 96.
Posted 2005-10-02 23:03:10
I wish I hadn't wasted 3 years doing a degree. I learned absolutely nothing that would have helped me be an English teacher in Thailand. It was a Mechanical Engineering degree.
Posted 2005-10-02 23:48:19
Oh most certainly they are able to answer if a person has received a degree from their university or not. Standard for most corporations HR department to check on previous job references as well as your eductional accomplishments.
Posted 2005-10-03 00:47:04
No they can't give information without your authorisation, the data protection act in the UK is there for that. When I used to do recruitment for a London company and checked up on a few potential employees the universities would not answer any questions over the phone, it all had to be in writing.
Posted 2005-10-03 00:57:12
Ahhh standard in most firms are releases for this type of info. Pure and simple you want a position - you release the info or you are obviously hiding smth.
Posted 2005-10-03 01:19:09
Is it possible to get Doctorates - Phd's, in Khao San Road?
I think there's a market out there for a fraudulent breast-enlargement clinic.
Posted 2005-10-03 01:30:09
Then why are you teaching English? I'll be studying English and Chinese. This will probably help me a lot. I want to study again, plain and simple.
Posted 2005-10-03 08:11:57
I think if I really wanted to be an English teacher in Thailand I would have studied Religion, Sociology or Education. English and Chinese wouldn't help me. Like in Thailand, in the UK many people do degrees just because they are too lazy to work, to please their family or can't think of anything else they want to do.
You can't beat experience,IMO.
Posted 2005-10-03 08:44:35
Tell me about it Neers, the real world is the best teacher anyone could get!
A bit off topic, but I've been told recently that it's not even a requirement by Thai law to have a degree to teach English in all cases.
Apparently a degree is required to work for an international school or through and employment agency. Reason being is these two situations require a teachers license.
But I am told that I can be employed directly through a government run school, and so long as I can show a TEFL or equivalent and they are happy to employ me, it's ok.
Can anyone shed any light on this as fact?
Posted 2005-10-03 08:57:38
While the factory of fakes continues.. the real problem is the organization that accept these people.. A Place like.. AAC..and the Personnel managers looking to scam..
Classic.. Anti-western ploy..and Deflection from the real problem.. Misinformation.. continues.. Quality of planning is lacking from the MOE..
Posted 2005-10-03 09:57:58
Normally, as an employer, one would ask for the propective employee to sign a permission form to ask the University to release the information.
The main thing is the quality of the paper and the watermark and also the aspect of the degree.
So many of hem have this huge seal on them done in the wrong colour, and the aspect is just wrong.
Posted 2005-10-03 10:18:27
It seems to me that the MOE can't be arsed to check the validity of degrees. It would cost a lot of money and use of manpower to check if every degree is a fake or not. It would also involve picking up the phone and having to speak English. I'm not sure if the average employee at the MOE would be keen to do this.
As for buying fakes on Khao San, this has been going on for years. If the authorities seriously wanted to stop the production of fake documents, they could. Why they haven't, I don't know!
Edited by Spit the Dog, 2005-10-03 10:19:33.
Posted 2005-10-03 10:44:52
Of course, they could just go and arrest the people producung the forgeries.
A few real jail terms would certainly put an end to the forgery business.
Posted 2005-10-03 11:17:55
I'm pretty sure in theory you're correct. Easier said than done though (like a lot of things here).
Posted 2005-10-03 11:30:48
Technically these are not diploma mills. It's simple counterfeiting.
Posted 2005-10-03 11:47:38
Can you imagine the cost of English classes with really qualified instructors ( BA, MA, TEFL, etc...)? Think Baht 500/hr would be okay for a real qualified ESL teacher?
I suggest that all teachers be pre-tested and the results would determine if they are able to teach English or not. Standards set by MOE or RSA.
Each year teacher testing would be required. Also regular programs to improve teaching like TEFL/TESL courses must be attended and signed off by MOE or University Affairs.