Suthep slaps Tarit with libel suit

Ex-deputy PM rejects cop stations graft claims

Former deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday filed a libel suit against Department of Special Investigation chief Tarit Pengdith for trying to implicate him in alleged irregularities in the police stations construction project.

Former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday defended his role in the police station building contract saga after the Department of Special Investigation launched an investigation into alleged corruption in the unfinished projects. APICHART JINAKUL

Mr Suthep, who oversaw the Royal Thai Police during the Democrat administration, insisted that neither he nor former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva had any knowledge of a letter from potential bidders opposing the Royal Thai Police plan to centralise the bidding process for 396 police stations nationwide.

All nine regional police offices were originally allowed to call bidding contests for the construction work of their police stations separately but the terms of reference were later changed to centralise the bidding process resulting in only a single company being allowed to undertake the work.

Mr Tarit claimed on Wednesday that construction firms submitted the letter to Mr Abhisit to oppose the move because they were concerned they would not be able to compete with bigger firms but their petition was ignored by Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep.

Mr Tarit also said the DSI was considering summoning Mr Abhisit for questioning because his government had approved the new bidding approach despite objections by these construction companies.

Mr Abhisit said yesterday that he had never een that letter before. Mr Tarit's move was politically motivated, he claimed.

Mr Suthep said the construction project for new police stations was initiated during the People's Power Party government under former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat.

The People's Power Party was the predecessor of the Pheu Thai Party.

The cabinet then approved the project on Nov 6, 2007 at a cost of 17.6 billion baht but the budget was later downsized to 6.67 billion baht.

The budget cut took place before the Abhisit government took over from the Somchai administration.

On May 29, 2009 Patcharawat Wongsuwon, then national police chief, proposed to allow the nine regional police offices to carry out bidding contests for the project, Mr Suthep said.

However, Pol Gen Prateep Tanprasert, then acting national police chief, decided to combine all the bidding contests into one, reasoning the method would help save state funds.

Mr Suthep said he approved the proposed change and stressed to Pol Gen Prateep that old buildings must not be demolished. The bidding was completed and the construction contract was signed during the term of another national police chief, Wichean Potephosree, he said.

Ten companies bought the bidding documents but only five entered the contest through the government auction process before PCC Development and Construction Co was chosen as the winner with the lowest bid of 5.8 billion baht, he said.

The bidding result was approved by a committee responsible for examining the contest, Mr Suthep said.

He strongly denied the DSI's claim of possible price collusion in the bidding process.

Mr Suthep said he had documents to show the details of the bidding contest and to disprove the DSI's price collusion allegation.

As for PCC, Mr Suthep insisted that he had not known the firm and had never contacted it either directly or indirectly.

Rak Thailand Party leader Chuvit Kamolvisit, meanwhile, held a press conference yesterday to defend the Democrat government, saying it was he who brought this issue up during the last censure debate against Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung.

The matter was now being politicised and exploited as a tool to attack the Democrats, he said.

If the Pheu Thai government realised PCC had violated the construction contract, why did the Royal Thai Police Office under former national police chief Priewpan Damapong agree to extend the contract period for the firm by 60 days after it failed to complete the project by the contractual deadline, Mr Chuwit asked.

The approved extension helped save PCC 5.8 million baht a day in fines, Mr Chuvit said.

About the author

Writer: Manop Thip-Osod, Aekarach Sattaburuth & King-Oua Laohong