Full probe for Rajabhakti

Full probe for Rajabhakti

Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya is correct. The public must be given full details about the construction of Rajabhakti Park, especially in areas where corruption is alleged to have taken place, before they can decide if the project is clean.

The Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) last week released the result of its probe into the scandal-plagued, one-billion-baht project built by the army in Prachuap Khiri Khan.

The agency cleared an amulet trader at the centre of the park controversy of an allegation he demanded kickbacks from foundries contracted to cast the statues of seven Thai kings that make for the park's highlight.

As head of the Centre for National Anti-Corruption supervising investigations by several state agencies into the park's alleged irregularities, the Justice Minister was quick to say he was not satisfied by the OAG's conclusion.

Gen Paiboon also insisted that his centre will not formally inform the public about the results of the probe into Rajabhakti Park's construction until all the questions he asked the OAG to look into are answered.

Some people might regard Gen Paiboon's reaction as possibly stemming from a personal agenda between him and former army chief Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, who was put in the hot seat when it came to the park's scandal because of his role in overseeing its construction.

Both Gen Paiboon and Gen Udomdej were tipped to become army chief after Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha retired two years ago. Although the top post went to Gen Udomdej, the sense of rivalry has reportedly lingered.

A careful look into Gen Paiboon's reservations, however, would reveal there is nothing personal to them as these are questions that must be asked, and answered, if Rajabhakti Park is to be scrubbed clean of all the corruption allegations that have tainted its intended splendour.

To arrive at its conclusion, the OAG relied on testimony from the suspected amulet trader as well as its checks on accounts belonging to the five foundries allegedly involved in the allegation and the suspect's company.

According to the OAG, the amulet trader admitted he received a sum of 20 million baht from the foundries for providing help in the Rajabhakti Park project. The money was given as management fees, not kickbacks.

At a later stage, however, the amulet trader decided to return the payment to the foundries as he figured he would rather help build the park as a volunteer.

The foundries refused to take the money back, according to the OAG's investigation. The amulet trader eventually decided to donate it to the Rajabhakti Park project.

The OAG said its inspection of financial transactions belonging to the foundries and the amulet trader's company showed no irregularities.

Gen Paiboon's observation is appropriate, that the OAG's probe has not given all the details that will put the kickbacks allegation in the clear beyond any reasonable doubt.

The financial trail might seem to match the account given by the amulet trader, but the OAG apparently did not question the details which are indeed key to the alleged irregularities. How did the amulet trader come into the project? Were his many roles formally recognised by the army? What did the foundries have to say about the so-called "management fees"? Were they in any way forced to make the payments?

Unless details about the amulet trader's many roles in the project are brought to light, it's impossible to declare Rajabhakti Park clean.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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