Questions for the government

Questions for the government

The mourning period is over -- officially. Flags are to fly at full staff again on Monday. Clothing rules for the civil service and guidelines for the public have expired. Still, the grieving will not end. No person will forget the uncountable accomplishments of the greatest Thai of our times. The expiration of the mourning period returns the country to a semblance of normality but things will never be quite the same.

The conclusion of the sad yet uplifting funeral period means that everyone returns to his and her life. Buses, railways and airlines return to regular schedules. Schools and workplaces and government offices all are back Monday to their posted hours. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government will prepare for the regular Tuesday cabinet meeting.

The members of the government under Gen Prayut deserve a respectful thank you for their care and attention to the events brought to a grief-stricken climax last Thursday. The preparations for the funeral of the great King Bhumibol Adulyadej provided impeccable grace, and splendour remarked on around the world. When he seized power three and a half years ago, Gen Prayut promised to unite Thais. Last week, Thai people were united as never before.

The funeral occurred in the midst of political questions which now will return to the fore. Several are urgent. These include the running scandal of Rajabhakti Park's improvement plan. The Prachuap Khiri Khan site of the massive statues of the seven great kings has been under a cloud from its inception. The latest controversy is a two-part "improvement". These consist of what seem to be the most expensive 52 toilets ever installed at a government-supported facility, and five shops. These will cost yet another 16 million baht in "donations" -- a word which has become synonymous with "scandal". In countering the allegations about massive overspending, army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad said the military is ready to disclose full financial details about the project which was investigated once by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). He should realise the public anticipates getting the details.

Then there are the laser, speed-detection "guns" and the Minister of Interior, who is former army commander, Gen Anupong Paojinda, who backed their purchase without asking necessary questions. The planned purchase of the speed detection guns, at almost 600 million baht, proposed by the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) has sparked a public outcry. This department, under Gen Anupong, has recently taken an interest in traffic fatalities and injuries during Songkran and the New Year. But while it has neither expertise nor enforcement powers about speed and accidents, it wrote the specifications and demands for the purchase of hundreds of speed detectors at outrageously inflated prices.

The parallel question here is what Gen Anupong knew and when he knew it. He claims not to have questioned the purchase, either in general or in detail. Gen Anupong says he just moved the request for hundreds of millions of baht from the DDPM to the cabinet, essentially without reading it or being briefed. The exact details aren't even known, with two reports saying the DDPM wanted either 573 million or 957.6 million baht to purchase either 849 or 1,064 hand-held speed guns. Both cases are outrageous and in no way reflect the value of such devices.

Gen Anupong merely insisted the devices in question are cheaper than previous procurements.

Cases like these are adding up, while Gen Prayut continues to play coy with public sentiment demanding an election date. The stated reasons for the coup have been met, and the only thing between today and national polls is paperwork. Gen Prayut needs to tear down the red tape and get to elections or face mounting criticism.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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