A female teacher walks among the preschoolers and suddenly grabs one tyke by the back of his shirt and pulls him away from a girl.

Another instructor lashes out at another young boy. A third manhandles a tot, dragging him out of class.

A teacher wraps a black plastic bag around the head of a terrified 2-year-old girl as punishment for some perceived misdeed, pushing her to the ground as she resists.

Throughout it all, other teachers look on and do nothing

Is this kindergarten or a torture camp?

The video clips of what appears to be systematic abuse at a Nonthaburi school and others part of a privately owned chain of preschools and primary schools called Sarasas has created a firestorm in Thailand.

From nurseries to universities, numerous Thai schools have over the years been accused by students and parents of fostering oppressive and even abusive environments in which use corporal punishment and bullying by teachers is rampant. But the latest case is different as it involves toddlers.

As of late last week, police had documented more than 30 alleged cases of physical abuse of small children at several Sarasas schools.

“My kid never told me about (this),” said the father of the girl assaulted with the plastic bag, Adisak Kiatpanompae. “I believed she didn’t know that it was violence. I don’t know what made the teachers so mad at my child.”

“My son had bruises all over his body (after coming home from school). There were 14 or 15 injuries,” said another parent of a young child at a Sarasas school. “I couldn’t accept it. I have filed a police complaint against the teacher.”

Several teachers, including a Filipino man, are facing various charges. The 25-year-old Filipino, Orejola Marvin Liwanag, was found to have been working illegally as an English teacher at Sarasas Witaed Ratchaphruek School in Nonthaburi school.

The head of the school chain, who owns the franchise, hasn’t issued an apology. Instead, he brushed off complaints by parents and blamed them for the nationwide outrage.

“I have said earlier that the school is willing to pay (compensation), but they shouldn’t do this. It’s too much,” Sarasas President Piboon Yongkamol told a Thai television station last week, referring to the police complaints. “In the end, they just want the money.”

Piboon then went on to liken those parents unfavorably to young pro-democracy protesters who have been demanding sweeping political reforms in a country whose government they see as oppressive and autocratic. “They are not showing courtesy,” the school director argued.

Yet if Piboon sought to quell all the bad publicity about his schools, then his attempt has badly misfired. His dismissive response has only added further flame to the fuel of outrage.

He remained defiant. “I’m not afraid if [police] shut down my schools,” Piboon said in another interview on television. “I will sell the property and make even more profits.”

Liwanag, the Filipino teacher, appeared to admit in an interview that the regular physical abuse of small children as a form of punishment or control is seen as acceptable at the schools.

“I’m a new teacher here and I don’t know about the rules and regulations yet,” he said in an interview. “What they are saying is that if Thai teachers try to discipline the student, foreign teachers are not allowed to do anything. I’m scared to do anything because I’m afraid that it will get back to me.”

A longer version of this story first appeared in UCA News, a Bangkok Herald partner.