Army backs B16m toilet, shop spend

Army backs B16m toilet, shop spend

Overspending claims dog Rajabhakti Park

The military regime has been deeply involved in a series of spending and 'donation' scandals surrounding Rajabhakti Park from its conception.
The military regime has been deeply involved in a series of spending and 'donation' scandals surrounding Rajabhakti Park from its conception.

Army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad on Thursday defended a decision to spend 15.9 million baht on building shops and public toilets at Rajabhakti Park in Pra­chuap Khiri Khan.

Responding to recent criticism of the project that has flared up on social media, he said the military is ready to disclose full details to the public to counter claims of massive overspending. The park is located in Hua Hin.

Army spokesman Winthai Suvaree said the army would first gather more information from the company contracted to build the facilities. It was hired on Dec 29, according to a source.

The park falls under the care of the Rajabhakti Park Foundation, the head office of which is at the army's Infantry Centre.

The park has high daily traffic but lacks facilities to cater to visitors, which prompted the foundation to launch the project, Col Winthai said.

The new building will blend in with the landscape and include five shops and 52 toilets including some for people with physical disabilities, he said.

It is now 80% complete and due to wrap up in February, he added.

Col Winthai insisted the toilet construction had proceeded with transparency.

A bidding process was conducted to find a contractor who offered the best prices and conditions. The company that proposed the best deal won the bid.

The budget for the construction came from donations. Donors had high expectations the toilets would not be better than other public toilets.

"The donors expect everything in Rajabhakti Park to gracefully honour the former kings. We must choose the design carefully and look at every detail. We're not talking about some shabby public toilets here, like the ones you may see at train or bus stations," he said.

Col Winthai insisted the budget for the toilets at the park was reasonable.

Sitting on 222-rai of land, the park consists of three core parts: An area featuring seven statues of previous kings of Siam, a multi-purpose ground, and an exhibition building featuring important royal duties recorded from the Sukhothai era (1238-1438) to the Rattanakosin era (the Rattanakosin Kingdom was founded in 1782 when Bangkok was made the capital).

The park has a history of taking flak due to allegations of kickbacks.

These were reportedly demanded as commission fees from foundries hired to cast the statues of the kings by an amulet trader who was invited to consult on that project.

That let to a formal petition previously being lodged with the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission.

The anti-graft agencies found no wrongdoing and said the park had been built in line with regulations governing budget spending.

They said the payments were transactions between private parties and were regarded as a business-based reward, as the amulet trader brought work to the foundries.

The Office of the Auditor-General said the amulet trader received a commission of 20 million baht for playing an advisory role.


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