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Thai Airways procurement probe points to corruption

Jack Burton

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Thai Airways procurement probe points to corruption | Thaiger
PHOTO: Al Jazeera

“Corruption has definitely occurred.”

An investigation by the Transport Ministry has revealed that some employees of Thai Airways got quite rich from a major plane procurement deal struck in 2003-2004. Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam said yesterday that the conclusion came after a team led by a former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau completed its investigation. Thaworn was assigned by Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob to announce the results of the investigation to parliament on Wednesday.

He said the focus of the investigation was on the factors that landed the struggling carrier deep in the red. The national flag carrier has run up debts of over 244 billion baht. The Central Bankruptcy Court is hearing from the beleaguered airline’s creditors after it presented a debt rehabilitation plan to the court. 3 hearings are expected to be completed before the end of this month and the court will decide whether to approve the plan.

Thaworn said the probe revealed that between 2003 and 2004, Thai Airways bought 10 Airbus A340 wide-bodied aircraft, to be used on direct flights linking Bangkok with New York and Los Angeles. 2 years after the routes were launched, the airline recorded losses of 12 billion baht. The losses more than tripled to to 39 billion baht after the same aircraft were used on other routes.

The direct US flights went ahead despite objections from the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council over acquiring that type of plane. The agency questioned the feasibility of operating the fuel-guzzling aircraft profitably.

Thaworn said the team’s findings will be forwarded to the National Anti-Corruption Commission and he’ll give further details of the probe later in the month.

Charnthep Sesaves, the former Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner, also said some Thai Airways employees had pocketed ill gotten gains from managing procurement projects, including the A340 deal.

“Corruption has definitely occurred.”

Thaworn said he had consulted the Council of State, the government’s legal arm, and was informed Charnthep’s team had to wind down its investigation because the airline is no longer a state enterprise and therefore doesn’t come under the supervision of the Transport Ministry.

Thai airways is buried under a long list of deeply entrenched problems that span the past decade, from its online platform, ticketing and sales, aircraft choices, to controversies over aircraft and engine procurement. The debacle over the use of Rolls Royce engines for its fleet of Boeing 777s is just one of the stories that have stained the reputation of the airline. In January 2017 a 4 year investigation by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office came to light. It determined that aircraft engine-maker Rolls Royce paid bribes to “…agents of the Thai state and employees of Thai Airways…” in order to secure orders for the Rolls Royce T800 engine for its Boeing 777-200s. Rolls Royce admitted to the charge and agreed to pay penalties. The illegal payments of US$36.4 million took place between 1991 and 2005. Bribes were paid in 3 tranches…

1 June 1991 – 30 June 1992: Rolls-Royce paid 660 million baht (US$18.8 million)
1 March 1992 – 31 March 1997: Rolls-Royce paid US$10.38 million
1 April 2004 – 28 February 2005: Rolls-Royce paid US$7.2 million

The government rejected calls for PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to use his executive powers to cut through red tape in the investigation of the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal. Response from the Thai government’s National Anti-Corruption Commission to information provided by the SFO was said to be “tepid” and “…could be more embarrassing than the scandal itself.”

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Wikipedia

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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Immigration police arrest Frenchman on drug charges, 3 other foreigners for overstay

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Immigration police arrest Frenchman on drug charges, 3 other foreigners for overstay | Thaiger

Immigration police arrested a French man who was allegedly involved in a crime network who allegedly smuggled cannabis, and arrested 3 other foreigners on overstay charges. Police say the crime network sold cannabis to foreigners living in tourist cities in Thailand.

Officers say they suspect there are more people involved in the alleged smuggling operation on the Eastern seaboard, which includes Chon Buri and Rayong. Police are now launching an investigation.

Police were tipped off earlier this year about an alleged French gang selling cannabis to tourists. Apparently, the drug suspects would rent rooms to store the cannabis and frequently change locations. Foreigners had rented a room off a soi in Bangkok, but the manager noticed they were acting suspicious. No one appeared to actually be living in the room and people would stop by the room for less than an hour, the manager told police.

Police arrested a man who was stopping by the room. Officers say the 28 year old, identified as Samy, had a suitcase filled with dried cannabis and scales. He faces charges for possession and distribution of a Category 5 narcotic.

The police went to the man’s apartment in the Charoen Nakhon area and arrested 2 French nationals, ages 27 and 28, and a 29 year old woman from the UK for overstaying their visas. Police say they had thrown cannabis and smoking equipment out the window before officers entered the room.

SOURCE: Thai Visa

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Thailand hoping to be upgraded to a Tier 1 nation in anti-human trafficking efforts

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Thailand hoping to be upgraded to a Tier 1 nation in anti-human trafficking efforts | Thaiger
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Thailand is hoping its newest anti-human trafficking report will earn an upgrade from the US from Tier 2 to Tier 1. The report was submitted to the Washington’s Trafficking in Persons Report. Deputy government spokeswoman, Rachada Dhnadirek, said the government is ready to be upgraded after remaining on Tier 2 for 3 years in a row. Those nations who fall on the Tier 2, are deemed to not be fully complying with the minimum standards set out in the US’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Those on the Tier 2, however, are supposed to be making efforts to comply with the minimum standards.

Before 2018, Thailand was placed in Tier 3, which is for nations who don’t fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making efforts to do so. Then, Thailand was upgraded to Tier 2 after making progress compared to the previous year.

Rachada says Thailand submitted the 2020 TIP Report on February 2 and a report on progress in its anti-human trafficking operations from January to March of this year to the US embassy on April 3. The data includes the number of arrests and punishments for human-trafficking offences. Thailand also has created a new plan, making it the first in Asia to introduce such a plan. That plan is called the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.

Rachada says now Thailand is processing human trafficking cases more quickly by shortening the investigation time to 70 days as of last year. In 2015, the investigation time was 118 days. She says the country has also set up centres to help LGBT human-trafficking victims as well as helping migrant workers with work-related issues.

Thailand has also introduced the PROTECT-U app for smartphones in which human-trafficking victims can access protection and launch complaints in 7 different languages. The app was developed by the Social Development and Human Security Ministry.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Phuket man shot by off-duty police officer now paralysed

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Phuket man shot by off-duty police officer now paralysed | Thaiger
Phuket Police Station / Google Maps

A 25 year old Phuket man who was allegedly beaten and shot by an off-duty, drunken police officer, will never walk again as he remains paralysed in the hospital. The news, according to doctors at Vachira Phuket Hospital, comes after Aroon Thongplab, was shot from a close range, with the bullet hitting his spine.

The man was a noodle vendor and was collecting a bowl from a customer on Bangla Road when he was allegedly shot by Pornthep Channarong of the Phuket Provincial Police at around 6am. Doctors told his wife about his prognosis after he woke up from a coma and underwent surgery to increase his prospects of being able to sit up. His wife, who is only known by her surname as Kulthida, told The Phuket News that she received news that he would never walk again.

“He cannot feel or move the lower part from his waist. Doctors just gave him spine surgery last week, so that he can sit. However, the doctors cannot assure that the surgery will work. We have to wait to see if his recovery goes well along with physiotherapy.”

Pornthep was discharged from the Royal Thai Police less than a day after he allegedly shot the noodle vendor. Now, he is facing charges of attempted murder, firing a weapon in a public area, and carrying a firearm in a public area without a necessary reason. But those charges have come slowly, according to Kulthida.

“I have already asked Patong Police, and they told me that at this stage the report to file (with the public prosecutor) is about 90% complete. I am also waiting for a notice from the court. Today, officers from Region 8 Police came to the hospital to question Aroon, but he has not been able to speak… I asked them about the bail conditions, and they told me that the suspect is still in jail.”

The Phuket Provincial Court is allowing Pornthep to go out on bail, despite the Royal Thai Police asking the court to keep in locked up.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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