Thailand News: Courts orders Bt587mn damages in BMA scandal; Suthep names Monday last stand; Record 5-ton dope haul


Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Court orders Pracha, Samak’s family to pay damages in BMA fire-vehicle purchase
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Fugitive former deputy interior minister Pracha Maleenont and the heirs of late former Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej were yesterday ordered by the Central Administrative Court each to pay Bt587 million to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to cover the losses caused by the procurement of fire trucks nine years ago.

The court ordered Khunying Surat Sundaravej and Pracha to pay 30 per cent of the Bt1.958 billion the BMA has already paid to Austrian firm Steyr-Daimler-Puch. The BMA’s payment went towards the Bt6.68-billion purchase of 315 fire trucks and 30 boats in July 2004.

Samak’s twin daughters Kanchanakorn Chaiyalarp and Kandapha Mungthin, along with their mother Surat, have jointly been held responsible for the payment.

Pracha, who is fleeing a 12-year jail sentence handed down in another court verdict, and Samak’s family are also subject to 7.5-per-cent interest on a yearly basis retroactively to when the BMA first paid the Austrian firm.

The court did not find Samak’s successor Apirak Kosayodhin liable for any payments.

Also yesterday, former commerce minister Watana Muangsook won an appeal against the BMA’s demand that he pay an unspecified sum for allegedly amending regulations to make a barter agreement to pay for the fire trucks with chickens or other farm products. He was initially indicted on these charges by the National Anti-Corruption Commission. The judges said there was not enough evidence to prove the allegations.

The Central Administrative Court yesterday ruled that Samak, in his capacity as former Bangkok governor, and former senior BMA official Athilak Tanchookiat had collaborated to rush the contract through before Samak completed his term.

The contract was signed even though it had not been scrutinised by the Office of the Attorney-General, which is normal practice in purchases of this sort.

The fire equipment has been confiscated as evidence after arriving in 2006 and is now in ruins. The BMA later suspended the contract after finding that fire engines were defective and that their prices were highly inflated.

Meanwhile, Samak’s family and Pracha still have a chance to file an appeal with the Supreme Administrative Court.

Last year, the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions found Athilak, then director of the BMA Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, guilty of altering specifications of the fire vehicles and boats. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Supreme Court found that Pracha and Athilak had pushed for the purchase without comparing prices, which allowed the Austrian company to sell the vehicles at a price that was found to be nearly 49 per cent higher than it would have been if bought locally.

The purchase deal was signed while Samak was Bangkok governor between July 2000 and August 2004, but the Supreme Court dropped charges against him after his death in 2009. Apparently, Samak signed the deal on August 27, 2004 – his last day as governor – before the gubernatorial elections were held two days later.

Election set for July 20; Suthep warns Monday D-Day for ‘last stand’
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A NEW election is in sight as the government and the Election Commission have agreed to hold one on July 20.

However, the EC would have to amend its regulations to prevent the new election from being nullified, the commission’s secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong said. He added that the EC would meet next Tuesday to draft the Royal Decree for the election, which would be sent to the government for seeking royal endorsement.

The Constitutional Court earlier ruled the February 2 election unconstitutional because voting could not take place in 28 of 375 constituencies on the same day.

EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen, who met with caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday, said the meeting went smoothly. He said the government agreed to all the proposals of the EC, which included that the election must be held only in a peaceful environment, and the EC might postpone polling in problematic areas.

“There must be no injury or loss in the new election,” he said.

3 steps to victory: Suthep

Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), announced last night that he would launch a final mass battle on Coronation Day, which will be marked on Monday.

He called on PDRC supporters to wear yellow and gather outside the Emerald Buddha Temple at 5pm on the day to ceremoniously swear to work together for the good of the country.

He said the final battle would be divided into three steps:

l Make a sacred vow to do good on Monday;

l Make merit to rid the country of evil on Visakha Bucha Day on May 13;

l Launch “a people’s operation” to oust the government on May 14.

Suthep also insisted yesterday that his group would not negotiate with bad figures and would continue pushing for national reform, without any links with politicians.

Democrat stance unclear

Yingluck posted on her Facebook page before the meeting that she hoped the election, which had been delayed for more than three months, would take place so that people could get the government they want soon.

During the meeting with Yingluck and the government’s representatives at the Royal Thai Air Force Academy, Supachai said the EC also presented the results of its previous meetings with security agencies and political parties, including Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Despite the decision by the EC and the government, it was uncertain whether the Democrats, who boycotted the February 2 poll, would join in this time.

In a previous interview, Abhisit – who has offered to help find a solution to the political impasse – said that if the election date were set for July 20, there would not be enough time to implement his proposals, which would need more time.

He said that if Yingluck welcomed his initiatives, then she should not set the election date but should instead listen to his proposals and consider them.

EC member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said the government must ensure the atmosphere for a free and fair election, it must stay neutral as the caretaker government and must not abuse power for its advantage. The security agencies must provide support for the election by maintaining peace and order.

He also said the EC might postpone the election in problematic places where the balloting cannot take place properly. Meanwhile, the government must also deal with a possible situation where the House of Representatives may not be able to convene within 30 days of the election date.

Abhisit yesterday met with Palang Chon Party leader Sontaya Kunplome to lobby for support for his political-reform initiative.

After the 45-minute meeting, Sontaya and Abhisit held a joint press conference. Sontaya said he did not mind if the election were delayed to avert problems.

After meeting the Palang Chon leader, Abhisit said he would next compile the proposals of all parties with whom he had met and draw up a proposal for the p

— Phuket Gazette Editors

Thailand News

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