My experience of Child Abuse in Thai schools

Having spent three months teaching English in Thailand to Anuban (kindergarten), Prathom (primary), and Mathayom (secondary) age students, I’ve witnessed a wide and disturbing pattern of child abuse.

“Corporal punishment”, the practice of hitting children that if done against adults would be classified as assault, is to my knowledge near-universal. All of the schools that I had taught at, and all of the schools that other teachers I knew had taught at, had hitting children as a mandated policy.

The other ESL teachers didn’t seem to care

Perhaps more disturbing than witnessing members of a culture still stuck in the middle ages abuse the weakest, most vulnerable, and dependent members of society, was the blithe disregard of the foreign teachers there towards the whole situation. I met maybe 20 other teachers during my time in Thailand. I knew a few of them quite well. I was the only one who spoke out against it, and to my knowledge I was the only one who told my “classroom assistants” to stop hitting children (I had to teach the word “stick” first).

Perhaps if foreign teachers started leaving their jobs in droves to protest this child abuse (a teacher who did this to kids in the West would promptly lose their job and possibly be arrested), maybe the Thais would take that as a signal that something needs to change. Instead, every single foreign teacher told me that they were happy using the violence of Thais as a means to control the class, and that “it’s their culture”.

Culture as the coward’s excuse

As if culture is an excuse for anything. That’s like saying “I’m from country XYZ and I can be an asshole to kids, and if you question my individual responsibility for my actions, I’ll just claim to be a deterministic robot controlled by ‘culture'”.

I put the job title of “classroom assistants” above in quotation marks because their English was barely at a pre-intermediate level and they did very little assisting. They would basically walk around the class and hit or scream at children who were bored or not behaving like obedient little robots.

As if children of any age are made to sit around in stuffy classrooms of 50, with no air conditioning, in the middle of a perpetual summer.

Hitting the children with sticks and rulers

Oh and yes, every Thai teacher I’ve seen (and I’ve seen hundreds) walks around with a stick. A couple of them claim to only use them to hit tables for attention. One teacher told me “I don’t like hitting the children, I just carry the stick around to control the class.” (Well, I’m paraphrasing. Her English was worse than that.) So she doesn’t hit the kids with sticks, she just walks around with an implement she knows will inspire terror in them. In a way, she was outsourcing the hitting to the other teachers – as the stick she carried obviously had associations of violence and pain from the other teachers.

Sticks aren’t the only implements used in the abusive hellholes that are Thai schools. Rulers, hands, or anything else nearby is also used. Children from as young as 4 are hit on the hands, on the buttocks, slapped on the face, and hit behind the head. They’re also pushed and shoved, grabbed by the arms, and screamed at.

The mask Thai teachers wear

It’s seriously creepy and disturbing to look at a Thai teacher’s happy smile instantly turn to vehement anger the moment she looks at a child. I’ve discovered that almost every teacher I’ve met has two faces. Their out-of-classroom face, which is usually very polite and full of smiles, and their in-classroom face, with is an almost permanent scowl on a face carrying around eyes that are clearly dead of any compassion inside. Worst of all was the uncertainty – which is the real them, and which is the mask? How can I like, let alone trust, someone who waits until they’re in a position of authority over children to abuse and humiliate them?

Almost all of the teachers are women, too. In Kindergarten, I was the only male. I’ve heard a lot about abusive men physically attacking wives and children in the media. It wasn’t until I went to Thailand that I saw for myself just what it was that some women were capable of.

The attitude of the female teachers towards the children was that they were a nuisance, an annoyance, something to be controlled (not someone, for these children were not treated as human beings), and something that was broken and needed to be fixed with violence. Being this angry and frustrated with children made me wonder many times why it was that these teachers chose this job and stayed at it for decades. The reason, of course, is that they enjoy abusing children.

My attempt to de-normalize the abuse

I tried to offer a de-normalization for the children – to provide an alternative method of interaction between them and an adult. To show them that they can relate to others without violence and abuse.

One of my secondary classes.
One of my secondary classes. I tried my best to make the classes enjoyable for them.

Already, children as young as 5 were hitting, kicking, and pushing each other in classes. Behaviors they had learnt very well from their adult role models.

In some ways I succeeded. Teaching Kindergarten I received ridiculous numbers of hugs. The group hugs even got a little dangerous (50 small kids running at you really has some force behind it!). And seeing the kids run after me as I left the Kindergarten building and put their little hands through the prison-like gates made me want to cry and kept me coming back long after when I wanted to just leave.

The schools are like prisons

And it was a prison. In the canteen, the only cutlery served was a spoon. Other teachers ate their meals with two, so I asked them why the canteen didn’t just have forks as well. They told me because otherwise, the students would stab each other with them. Just like in a prison, large communal areas were devoid of anything sharp – even a fork – lest the inmates take their helpless anger at authority figures out on each other.

But it was just too much. The last few weeks that I taught at my first school, I called my job there an “Asshole relief effort”. I just came in to provide some brief relief from the nightmare of the other teachers. A small window of time in which the kids wouldn’t be yelled at or hit by people three times bigger and heavier than them.

I still tried to teach them English, but I realized the futility of it. The level of English in Thai schools peaks at about the age of 11-12, and then goes downhill from there. My 15 year-old students were worse than my 12 year-olds, and that has been the experience of other teachers too. And it’s no surprise. Teach a group of 6 year-olds English for 15 minutes, and all of that information disappears the moment the Thai teacher randomly smacks her stick on the table. The poor children, terrified, are back to square one. How can children in fear of abusive monsters be expected to retain information?


Witnessing children at the age of 4 being abandoned by their parents at these nightmarish institutions, crying in hysterics and being herded like cattle, their needs ignored… Hearing one teacher tell us that her daughter is in one of our classes, and that if she ever acts up, we are to inform her immediately so that she can “kick her”, and seeing both her and the other foreign teachers laugh…

Ultimately, the abuse I saw children experience is one of the main reasons I left the first school I taught at to move to older, college-level students in another school. At least there, since the students were now adults, they were no longer being hit all the time.

Nationalism and superstition abides

Unfortunately, the above-mentioned physical and verbal abuse is not the only kind inflicted upon children in Thailand. Nationalism and insane religious superstitions are universal. Unlike the Buddhism you hear of in the west, Buddhism in Thailand is very much a mishmash of the most asinine beliefs I’ve ever heard of.

All schools play the national anthem in the mornings, at which point every student and teacher must freeze, like a statue. I kept walking for a few weeks, until at one point an infuriated “colleague” screamed at me to stop. I thought “I’m surrounded by crazy people, might as well do what they say until I get out of this hellhole”.


Foreigners are pejoratively called “farangs”, and although I have a name, and introduced myself in all of my classes, the other students and teachers continued to call me “farang teacher”. It is my experience that racism in western countries pales in comparison to that of Thailand (and from talking to friends elsewhere in Asia, all of Asia). If you ever visit Thailand, pay attention to that word. If you hear people around you saying it, they’re talking about you. Enjoy trying to figure out what they’re saying…

Outside of schools, the situation was hardly better. One woman who worked for a family I was tutoring asked me if I wanted to go out drinking with her. Being a teetotaler, I declined.

A few weeks later, she gleefully informed me that she had a fourth child as she waddled away. This being a woman who drinks alcohol every day (while pregnant), already has three children she never sees because she works full-time, and is a single mother. It’s difficult to put into words the anger I feel at people like this, and how sorry I feel for their kids.

Thai children are massively behind

Since at the end of the day these children desperately need compassion, curiosity, and kindness in their lives, their academic performance is in comparison all but irrelevant.

But for those who care more about results than the souls of children broken in the process, I will say that Thailand has consistently ranked as by far the worst country in Asia when it comes to their level of English. Thais in any way involved with tourism will routinely hire Filipinos over locals, because it’s genuinely hard to find a Thai person who speaks even passable English.

And when it comes to IQ tests, 6.5% of Thai children had scores lower than 70, putting them in the category of mental retardation. That’s more than three times higher than the world average of 2%. Since there’s a strong correlation between child abuse and lower IQ scores, I’m not at all surprised.

My advice

If you are at all sensitive to the needs and suffering of children, be very careful about visiting Thailand. It’s possible that as a tourist confined to hotels and restaurants you won’t see much of this abuse going on, but if you plan on living and working there, especially in any way related to children and schools, I would suggest you give Thailand a very wide berth.

Thailand is the “land of smiles” the same way America is the land of the “free”. Orwell would be turning in his grave at this propaganda and doublespeak.

18 thoughts on “My experience of Child Abuse in Thai schools”

  1. Excellent informative essay Fred. What a serious and unhappy reality for the children in Thailand and so I am so glad you’re raising awareness here with your writing. I was particularly shocked and angry to read about the attitudes of the ESL teachers you met. Thank goodness at least some of those children got to have you as their teacher, I know it wasn’t for long, but at least they got to experience some humanity in their young lives. It’s so sad. Thank you for writing this very necessary essay.

  2. Excellent informative essay Libertarian Prepper. What a serious and unhappy reality
    for the children in Thailand and so I am so glad you’re raising
    awareness here with your writing. I was particularly shocked and angry
    to read about the attitudes of the ESL teachers you met. Thank goodness
    at least some of those children got to have you as their teacher, I
    know it wasn’t for long, but at least they got to experience some
    humanity in their young lives. It’s so sad. Thank you for writing this
    very necessary essay.

  3. Excellent informative essay Libertarian Prepper. What a serious and unhappy reality for the children in Thailand and so I am so glad you are raising awareness here with your writing. I was particularly shocked and angry to read about the attitudes of the ESL teachers you met. Thank goodness at least some of those children got to have you as their teacher, I know it wasn’t for long, but at least they got to experience some humane treatment. It’s just so sad, and outrageous. Thank you for writing this very necessary essay.

  4. After a very cringeworthy and mawkish outburst on one of your other articles, I thought to further peruse the site and found some quite interesting reading.

    “No snowflake in the avalanche ever feels responsible”.

    While for the most part I am quite laissez-faire, if there is one of the select few topics I am unashamedly passionate about it is the issue of child welfare. You are clearly capable of critical thought and unafraid to stand your ground even as a lone dissenting voice in a foreign locale, and for that you have both my respect and my gratitude. Even if the outcome will not change, your actions were not meaningless, least of all for the children. The actions of one person may bring about no substantial difference, but passive complicity ensures that nothing ever will.

    My mouth was agape reading through most of this – while young and ignorant single mothers neglecting their children in Western countries is infuriating enough to witness, this kind of institutional abuse is on a completely different plane. I’m not even sure I could witness a similar situation without actively trying to assault the staff, which would not only lead to legal trouble but also only serve to reinforce the normalcy of physical violence. Even with the older students, I couldn’t get it out of my mind that they likely had a similar childhood.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and not acquiescing to this absurdity.

  5. i got beat up by a 30 year old their with wood and punches and kicks to the head, was one of my fathers “ex girlfirends friends” she said that him hitting me “in anger” was to teach me and was because she love me. seriously fucked up shit. their.

  6. Bollocks, I’ve worked here for five months. Omg, they do not mean to be racist when they call you a ferrang they don’t know how to say it properly in English, Thai ppl are lovely, it’s quite harmless, Thai kids can be really naughty and hard to control, it is only used as a last resort when they are really bad, and it’s usually a smack with a hand. It’s you people why we have a generation of pussies in the western world, and why it is so pc. This is why western brats turn to drugs, crime benefits,alcoholism ect no respect for one another. Maybe this ruined the western world by giving kids too many human rights. Get off your soap box and wake up, clearly not a good candidate for working in Thailand. Btw I got a degree in mental health nursing, masters in social work and I still think from my professional experiences and working here you have made it sound very left wing

    1. Sidney Sheldon

      What an ignorant shit you are. Thai schools are indoctrination and abuse centers. Period! These people behave like they drive and whether they are legal to drive or have a license to kill on the roads.

      Statistics prove Thailand is number one in the world for traffic related deaths and that even with the more than likely falsified statistics that we all know Thais are remiss to provide.

      One wonders what else they are number one at in this world. I submit their degraded re-education and abuse camps, which they call “schools” and “universities” would be a close number two.

      Regarding the Western world… the mass illegal and multiculturalism issues are what took away the good old days of education and developing good social skills from a stand point of culture, values, traditions and ideologies of one race (white) and not glorified daycare and going away from White nationalistic pride and white rights (ie what WESTERN COUNTRIES originally were).

      And don’t call me racist, if you love a racist and xenophobic Thailand so much and shit all over Western Countries that are falling because of their PC/Non-Racist degraded values.

      What an utterly ignorant and disgusting view.

      1. HAHAHA ignorant shit, again another statement full of bollocks. I have no problem with them slapping the kids who are completely out of line. I say to them at times I will get the thai teacher unless they behave, which they usually do behave very quickly. Unless you have taught here you don’t know. Don’t be so soft, as with many other of my ferrang colleagues here we think it is used appropriately and accordingly. so one point to Thailand for teaching children good discipline. 0 points for you for being typical pc ferrang who sounds as if you don’t discipline your children well. 😉

        1. …. and PS I’m still teaching here, I just got a job promotion at the school and all the staff love me here- so hehehhe I must be doing my job right. what can you do about it I’m in the east not the west 🙂

          1. You know this means nothing, right? Being promoted doesn’t implies being a good teacher, why the hell anyone would think that?

            In order to be sure that you’re a good teacher you have to do a summer camp or something that doesn’t give any government required certification and try teaching your students when they are not obligated to stay in your class nor finish it.

            If you were promoted in that situation, then you could happily conclude you’re a good teacher – at least for the voluntarily paying students/parents regarding the unregulated certification. But something tells me that’s not the case 55.

  7. Nutchanon Borisut

    I’m thai people and i most agree with you.
    I ever saw my 2 class friend who bully other students to get money getting spanked,when i was 9 year old, by three teacher in one stroke per 1 teacher and that day those boy must be led to 3 class to show how bad boy get to the rest of student and i feel sad for those when teacher finishing spanking,teacher use relieving pain drug(external usage drug call ยาหม่อง which is palm) to those boy but teacher say “your ass are so soft ” and little smile as if this situation is so ridiculous although i saw those ass is lightly red but why teacher didn’t choose other methods instead of this,why teacher said as if this situation is so ridiculous,why teacher didn’t ask the reason why those boy must do like that,maybe they being not enough money to use,this is my wondering untill now.
    Have you ever noticed that rich or quit well-being thai peole don’t send their child to thai school?
    I don’t understand like you why thai people must be serious to stand up straight when national anthem song starts but for my mind i think that behavior comes from two part:
    1.before a little national anthem starts,the media which broadcasts the national anthem will persuade thai people to understand
    2.before thai student go to studying class,they must stand up straightly,when national anthem starts,untill national anthem finishs
    Actually,i ever met teacher who is very respecable and she can give me a good advice when i have problem.
    I want you to not think every teacher being so no reason and cruelty but good teacher like i say can not be found easily
    Although most teacher is so cruel and unreasonable
    PS. When thai people say farang,they don’t look down or be racist on you but this is habbit of thai people when they see you be familiar with caucasoid face shape wherever country you come from except you looking like musalim who is caucasoid face shape,they calling you as แขก.
    I hople my explaning will help you understand thai people more

  8. Wirinthorn Jaroensri

    I understand that the word “farang” comes from “foreigner” that Thai people in the past can’t speak it properly. Then they become accustom to this word . However, many people nowadays don’t know what it means, and don’t know many foreigner don’t like to be called like that.

    I’m really sorry about that for you to have those bad experiences .

  9. Well I’m Thai and I’m in a secondary school now. there aren’t any beatings in my current school
    BUT!! when i was in primary school or “Prathom” I got so much beatings. The teachers uses hand,broom,ruler,stick me and my friends. I also got bullied so much so I told my teacher but Guess what!? THEY DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT IT!!!! They just told me to “Man Up”

  10. Disgusting. But not surprising, since Thailand is just another brutal, harsh(and pretentious) Asian societies that tend to breed more inhumanity. They want teachers with degrees and yet they are still in the dark ages with their horrible Asian societies imposing and inflicting their often abusive tendencies on us or others who don’t share their horrible Asiatic traits. It must be horrible for those poor ESL teachers having to teach(and in the process earn pittance) and suffer in their horrible Asiatic societies..

  11. Toine van Beek

    I agree on completely, we returned to The Netherlands because of the beating at school. The teacher there have two faces, they like to hit. My children received beatings almost every day. My son has a learning problem, that means extra help needed. He got the extra help, hitting when he did not understand something. My daughter an excellent student eager to learn also got beaten almost every day.

    I worked as a teacher for about 3 years with students aged 6 – up to 18 years. I never had problems with the children. Never had to hit them, just respect them be friendly and they will love you. Every time I stepped into the classroom I received big smiles from the children.

    Thai teachers, 99% are monsters inside the classroom. Thai children are very lovely and friendly. Would you behave when you where in this situation?

    Toine van Beek

  12. Aaron Ainsworth

    Physical and psychological abuse leads to people developing caged animal syndrome. This leads to fight or flight style automated responses to conflicting, or potentially conflicting situations, i.e.; automatic responses can include physically assaulting people or becoming completely withdrawn from society post perceiving any slight possibility of conflict. Idiot posters here report the west has deteriorated as a consequence of pc, with young people getting hooked on drugs etc. Umm… evidently these posters have no experience with Thai culture, as drug use here (primarily yaba) is rampant. Paranoia here is also rampant. World knowledge is ‘generally’ non-existant! That includes knowledge of world history. Thai knowledge of Thai history is usually very strong, orcat least the knowledge of 2hat they’re being told. Thai Nationalism is embraced by practically all and people rarely question the motives behind anything the military or royal family engage in. Although I have not observed a lot of physical violence directed towards children by parents, verbal abuse is absolutely everywhere and parents literally scream at their children in high pitch shrieking that hurts your ears practically all day. The word farang (foreigner) is of course offensive, as it is basically labelling westerners as outsiders etc. Most Thai people will talk about Farang as though we are part of a monoculture whilst speaking in front of you. Individually here is generally considered abnormal and highly discouraged. And welcome to Thailand

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *