Agriculture chief defends against bribe claims in corruption case

The Director-General of the Department of Rice staunchly defended actions taken in a controversy involving a well-known activist, Srisuwan Janraya, who was offered money to halt corruption complaints.

At 1pm today, January 30, at the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Natthakit Khanthip addressed the allegations that a consultant to the Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives suggested that the director-general’s wife give money to Srisuwan, a leader of a patriotic organization.

Natthakit explained that he and his wife had been gathering evidence for a while before filing a legal complaint. On November 28, last year, out of exasperation, they invited a senior consultant to the minister to visit Srisuwan at his home. Srisuwan, a junior from Maejo University, did not respond to their questions about his demands. Natthakit emphasised his Buddhist faith and the legitimacy of the sting operation coordinated with the police.

With visible frustration, Natthakit and his wife planned their approach to prevent any issues for the minister, hiring a lawyer to fight the case, with the understanding that if wrongdoing was found, they would face investigation. After the arrest of Srisuwan, the team learned of the incident, and Natthakit informed the minister and apologized, with the minister encouraging proper legal procedure and offering support.

When questioned about a former politician named P, who allegedly instructed silence on the issue, Natthakit denied knowledge and insisted on speaking for himself. He confirmed that all the department’s projects are accountable and dismissed any political sabotage speculation. He recalled Srisuwan’s numerous complaints and a misaddressed complaint letter that led to the police report at Khaeng Sanam Nang Police Station in Nakhon Ratchasima.

Natthakit also wryly remarked that, in the past, such a situation between juniors and seniors from Maejo University would have resulted in a traditional punishment involving a banana stalk around a pond and half-head shaving. He also clarified that the budget for a 15 billion baht rice farming cost reduction project, which was not managed by the department, was appropriately transferred to the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives as per a cabinet resolution.

Sting operation

Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thamanat Prompow, revealed that he communicates daily with the Director-General and although they discussed the case, there was no mention of a sting operation. After the initial complaint last year, a committee cleared them of wrongdoing, but due to public interest, the Prime Minister ordered a re-investigation, emphasising fairness to all parties involved.

Thamanat also mentioned that the consultant’s meeting with Srisuwan has been clarified by the Director-General. He believes several departments have been complained about but no one speaks openly about it. He humorously invited complainants to a meal in Tak Bai, suggesting it was time to clean house and not dwell on the past.

Thailand News

Nattapong Westwood

Nattapong Westwood is a Bangkok-born writer who is half Thai and half Aussie. He studied in an international school in Bangkok and then pursued journalism studies in Melbourne. Nattapong began his career as a freelance writer before joining Thaiger. His passion for news writing fuels his dedication to the craft, as he consistently strives to deliver engaging content to his audience.

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