NACC sparks problems
text size

NACC sparks problems

The decision by the Rayong Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases on May 13 to acquit Itthipol Kunplome of granting an illegal construction permit for a high-rise condo project in Pattaya again raises questions about the performance of the National Anti-Corruption Commission -- our independent graft-busting agency.

The former minister of culture and ex-mayor of Pattaya was acquitted not because he cleared his name in court but because the 15-year statute of limitations for his charge had expired.

Despite the alleged malfeasance being carried out 15 years ago, the NACC only asked the state attorney to forward the case to court last year.

The court verdict clearly states that Mr Itthipol and nine other officials accused in this project were guilty of violating construction laws as well as malfeasance under Section 157 of the Criminal Code.

They allegedly authorised the illegal construction of the Waterfront condominium project, overlooking a Pattaya beach, while Mr Itthipol was in office in August 2008. The building has been ordered demolished because its permit was illegally issued.

The court on Monday sent six defendants to jail under Section 157 and other related laws. Mr Itthipol and three other defendants were cleared because their charge under Section 157 had reached its 15-year statute of limitations.

The verdict categorically singles out the NACC's investigation process, which caused the statute of limitations issue.

"The NACC was not intent on making its legal process in this charge meet the timeframe under the statute of limitations that expired on Sept 10, 2023," the court said.

The NACC received a complaint to investigate the alleged malfeasance in October 2014 and only ordered the probe into it in July 2022, some eight years later.

On July 24 last year, it had just asked the Office of Attorney General to bring the case to court.

The public prosecutor frantically filed the case with the court on Sept 4, a week before Sept 10. The NACC needs to explain to the public the timeline of its legal process.

What happened a month before the case expired is grotesque. Mr Itthipol and a few other defendants ran away. He fled to Cambodia on Aug 30 and returned to Thailand on Oct 9 to turn himself in to the police. He was arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport and subsequently granted bail.

Indeed, Thai law permits a legal avenue for dealing with defendants who flee. Law enforcement agents can seek court warrants and injunctions to stop the statute of limitation. Did the NACC and public attorney do that?

The case again shows how the NACC's record of foot-dragging can delay and deny justice. Lest we forget, on May 11, firebrand activist Veera Somkwamkid said he would sue the NACC for failing to comply with the Administrative Court's May 2 order to disclose the details of its probe into former deputy premier Prawit Wongsuwon's high-end wristwatches.

The NACC often tells the public that it has thousands of corruption cases to investigate. Yet, the NACC needs to come clean about why it spent almost a decade processing Mr Itthipol's cases.

So far, the NACC has simply told the media it will look into the matter -- which is not acceptable and only undermines public faith and trust. By kicking the can down the road, the NACC has become the problem instead of the solution for the country in the fight against corruption.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email :

Do you like the content of this article?