Futsal case doubts linger
A small move by an activist on Friday has asked a big question of public prosecutors who need to prove their independence in a scandal case.
Atchariya Ruangrattanaphong, chairman of the Help Crime Victims Club, on Friday submitted a petition to the Attorney-General asking him to accelerate a graft case concerning the construction of futsal fields at schools in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima.
More importantly, the case involves three government MPs.
In August last year, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) decided in a 9:0 vote to indict three Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MPs over a graft-ridden deal to construct futsal fields at schools in the Northeast.
The NACC found evidence that PPRP party-list MP Virat Ratanasate, his wife Thassaneeya, and her sister Thassanaporn Ketmetheekarun, both constituency MPs for Nakhon Ratchasima, had colluded with 21 others in siphoning off 4.4 billion baht in budget funds disbursed from the MPs’ fund to the futsal field project in 19 provinces.
The NACC ruled their involvement to be “policy-oriented corruption” which violated conflicts of interest provisions in the 2007 constitution which was applicable during that time.
The anti-graft agency is required to forward the case to the Office of the Attorney-General within 30 days.
The OAG then has 180 days decide whether to bring the case before the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions. If the case is accepted by the court, the three PPRP MPs will be suspended from duty. The public prosecutors have yet to make a decision whether to prosecute Mr Virat and the others.
In early January, Isra News Agency reported the OAG told the NACC that the case had yet to be completed, despite the unanimous vote in favour of decisive action.
As a result, the OAG set up a joint panel with the NACC to fix flaws in the case.
The OAG needs to update the public about its progress or its political impartiality might come into question.
Mr Virat is the government chief whip and is reportedly close to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.
A key figure on the government’s side, he defected from Pheu Thai and led his group to join the PPRP in the 2019 election.
In February, Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow reportedly led a group of PPRP MPs to meet Gen Prawit who demanded he remove Mr Virat from the position of chief whip.
Capt Thammanat said Mr Virat had done a poor job rallying votes for him in the then-pending censure debate compared with other ministers.
In the event, Capt Thammanat scraped through the censure debate with the lowest vote compared to other ministers who were grilled.
Mr Virat is still in his job, which reflects the strong support he receives from the powers-that-be.
As a result, it is inevitable the public will think something is awry with delays in Mr Virat’s case.
According to Section 248 of the constitution, state attorneys are independent in deciding whether to prosecute cases.
The OAG should take advantage of this opportunity raised by the activist to assure the public about its independence, as enshrined by the charter, by spelling out what progress it has made in the case concerning Mr Virat and his family.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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