PHUKET CITY: Following threats of a lawsuit, the company that transported 10 decommissioned military aircraft from Lopburi to Phuket in April finally received 2.4 million baht in payment for its work in the Coral Reef Squadron artificial reef project.
Chuchard Santikanant, Managing Director of Cargo Marketing International Co Ltd (CMI), yesterday confirmed to the Gazette, by email, that he had received the payment by the Thai Dive Association (TDA) on behalf of the Cherng Talay Tambon Administration, which donated 4 million baht to the project.
Rainer Gottwald, who heads the TDA’s technical committee, said that the TDA balked at signing off on the payment for four months, claiming that the price was excessive and that the TDA was uncomfortable about handing over funds that came from taxpayers’ money.
It also tried, without success, to get Bangkok-based CMI to lower its charges, which were worked out in a deal with a private company in Bangkok.
The resulting scandal cost one TDA board member his membership in the non-profit association, said Mr Gottwald.
With the first phase of the project complete, the 10 aircraft now await transport by barge from the jetty at Phuket Deep Sea Port.
Mr Gottwald told the Gazette that the Thai Army has also donated four large WWII-era GMC trucks for the project.
These are currently being cleaned and will also be sunk along with the 10 aircraft in a concentric pattern on the sea floor at a carefully chosen spot in Bang Tao Bay, he said.
The work could start as early as November 12, Loy Kratong Day, and would probably take about two weeks to complete, he added.
The TDA and its partners would like to establish many more artificial reefs along Thailand’s Andaman coastline, from Khao Lak to Koh Lanta.
These would help take pressure off existing natural dive sites, which are suffering from the effects of mass tourism, he said.
One of the project organizers, For Sea Foundation Secretary Vittayen Muttamara, said he is also holding talks with Sony Music International about the possibility of organizing a benefit concert in Bangkok to raise funds, he said.
For a full report on the row over payment for delivery of the Coral Reef Squadron and how the issue was resolved, see the next hard copy edition of the Gazette, which will be on newsstands this Saturday.
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