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AIT’s Response to Bangkok Post Article

09 Feb 2000
Pakkamol Dherapongsthada

AIT’s Response to Bangkok Post Article

On January 12, 2000, Bangkok Post wrote…

AIT to get Bt163M fund

Budget Bureau keen to cut financial aid

The cabinet has approved financial aid of 163 million baht for the Asian Institute of Technology between the year 2000 and 2004.

The funding for the seventh phase of the financial aid program is split in two categories: 115 million baht for the scholarship program and 48 million baht to support the institute’s expenditure, including salaries of coordinators of the aid program.

However, the cabinet declined to approve for the institute a budget of 500 million baht as tax compensation for the past five years.

It agreed to a sum of 100 million baht as tax compensation for the past fiscal 2000 only and ordered the establishment of a committee to study and draw up future funding plans for AIT. The committee to be chaired by the minister of University Affairs, will take into consideration the institute’s future development and more education opportunities for Thai students.

The plan will be submitted to the cabinet for consideration.

‘The committee will work our future cooperation plans between the government and the institute. It is possible that Thai students will receive more benefits from the institute,’ said government spokesman Akapol Sorasuchart.

He also said that as the education reform was in progress, AIT might be required to make some adjustments involving administration.

He added that it was highly possible the institute would be turned into an independent agency under the education reform scheme.

Meanwhile, the Budget Bureau reportedly asked the government to cut financial aid to the institute on grounds of economic problems and budget deficiency.

According to the bureau, the government had been ‘over funding’ the institute, considering the benefits the state and the Thai people received in return.

AIT has failed to produce personnel needed for the country’s development and provided only a small research budget to the country, it said.

The bureau also said AIT staff do not pay taxes while the institute is funded by public tax money. About 60% of the 1,300 staff are Thai nationals.

AIT is an international institute established in 1967. It comprises the School of Advanced Technology, School of Civil Engineering, School of Environment and School of Management.

Japan and Sweden, the major contributors have cut financial aid.

The AIT President wrote a letter to the Editor of Bangkok Post, as published on February 5, 2000:

REPORT of AIT is not true

The Jan. 12 issue of the Post contained an article on page 5 titled ‘Asian Institute of Technology to get Bt163M fund: Budget Bureau keen to cut financial aid.’

The article mentioned possible cuts in Thai financial aid to AIT, alleged that Japan and Sweden had cut their support and questioned the contribution of AIT to its host country, Thailand. The content and tone of this article has caused great concern among AIT faculties, staff, students and alumni. A clarification is necessary.

In fact, the Thai cabinet meeting held on Jan 11 acknowledged the role of AIT as a world-recognized academic institution that has contributed to human resources development at a high level in various disciplines, and resolved to further support the development of AIT, enabling it to fulfill its role in promoting modern technologies, attracting foreign students, providing more educational opportunities to Thai students for studying abroad and opening up a channel for a stronger role and support from foreign governments.

In line with the recommendation of the Budget Bureau, the government has agreed to approve a fiscal 2000 budget of 123 million baht as proposed by the National Education Commission. Budgets for subsequent years will be subject to a joint reconsideration by relevant government agencies.

The government will appoint a committee to recommend appropriate criteria and guidelines on future support for AIT, including tax reimbursement issues. The committee will be chaired by the Minister of University Affairs Prachuab Chaiyasarn, with the Minister attached to the PM’s Office Abhisit Vejjajiva as deputy chairman, and with representatives of ministries and agencies concerned.

There have been no reductions in grants from Japan and Sweden.

AIT is a multinational institution based in Thailand, which is proud and honored of the support currently extended by the royal Thai government as well as by other governments, such as those of Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, among others, the European Commission, international institutions and development agencies, as well as foundations, the private sector and individuals.

Since its inception in 1959 as the SEATO Graduate School of Engineering, then based in Chulalongkorn University, AIT has contributed in a major way to the development of the host country and the region. Our alumni, currently numbering 10,000, including more than 2,400 Thai nationals, hold positions of influence in government, business and academia in Thailand and throughout Asia, contradicting the article’s allegation that ‘AIT has failed to produce personnel needed for the country’s development.’

AIT has produced capable manpower in major technical fields such as civil and environmental engineering, information technology, management. AIT has also taken an active role in some major technological developments in the region, such as bringing the Internet Technology to Thailand.

AIT is currently positioning itself as an academic hub between the region and some of the most advanced institutions worldwide, with an emphasis on the actual needs of the region and on technology transfer. AIT brings to Thailand 1,400 students from more than 50 countries worldwide in Asia, Europe, and North America.

With a multinational faculty of 200, AIT is part of an international academic network through exchanges of faculty and students, dual degree programs with top institutions worldwide. Contacts have been made with leading Thai universities expected to join this international network as fully-fledged partners. AIT offers a unique opportunity for Thai students (who constitute more than 40% of its student body) to get a truly international training environment within Thailand.

Jean-Louis Armand
President, AIT