House mulling complaint over pricey land

House mulling complaint over pricey land

The House standing committee on corruption is expected to discuss on Wednesday a complaint about a City Hall plan to purchase an overpriced plot of land in northern Bangkok, according to a source in parliament.

The complaint was filed by former Democrat Party MP Wilas Chantharapitak, who opposes an alleged plan to purchase a 4.5-kilometre long strip of land to connect Chaeng Watthana and Song Prapha roads.

Mr Wilas claimed the land is being earmarked for purchase at an inflated price, although the project has not yet started.

No public hearings or environmental assessments have been conducted on the proposed project.

The former MP said if the land was acquired at a price above the state-estimated rate, the party approving the deal could face legal consequences.

Mr Wilas said it had come to his attention that certain officials at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) were looking to invoke the land expropriation law of 1954, which has been repealed, for the proposed land purchase.

They were also planning to proceed with the purchase through "administrative reconciliation" issued by a cabinet resolution in 1957, which authorises officials to procure land above the state-estimated price.

Normally, a purchase made by the state exceeding the legal estimate is against the law.

Mr Wilas also alleged that the land in question was bought at 66,000 baht per square wah, when the official estimate is quoted at 26,000 baht per square wah.

He also said records show that more than 35 pieces of land in Bangkok worth a total of 437 million baht were allegedly sold to City Hall at inflated prices over the past six months.

Some tracts of land were offered at grossly exaggerated prices, he said, adding that some were bought at 50,000 baht per square wah -- more than five times the state-estimated rates.

Smarn Chanta, director of the BMA's Office of Land Expropriation and Acquisition under the Department of Public Works, on Tuesday told the Bangkok Post that he thought the city has done nothing wrong.

He said the BMA's land purchases are in response to the demand by the local Song Prapha community, which called for the city administration to develop a shortcut to Chaeng Watthana Road.

Most of the local landowners agreed to sell their plots, but some also refused, which forced the BMA to negotiate with them.

He said the BMA was acting in line with the latest version of the Land Expropriation Act, which has been effective since early this year.

The most recent amendment to the act requires the authorities in charge of proceeding with land expropriation to consult land owners and purchase the land based on the market price, not on the official median price.

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