Ministry apologises for parks dept chief 'bribes'

Ministry apologises for parks dept chief 'bribes'

Varawut: Pledges probe into 'gifts'
Varawut: Pledges probe into 'gifts'

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa said on Thursday he would ensure justice is served in a suspected case of bribery discovered at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and keep the public updated.

Mr Varawut apologised for the alleged corruption committed by Rutchada Suriyakul Na Ayutya, the department's chief, saying the ministry must accept responsibility for the case and would do its best to guarantee the investigation is carried out well.

He said the committee would invite all directors and related personnel until it gets to the heart of the matter, without any interference from the ministry.

The probe will cover all aspects of the case, holding to account anyone who may be involved regardless of their status or position, he added. He was responding to queries about whether the department chief paid other people to be complicit as part of Thailand's patronage culture.

"I would like to apologise for this case which could jeopardise the enthusiasm of other state officials who have made so many sacrifices to carry out their duties. Of course, I cannot deny we as a ministry must be held responsible, so I will keep the public updated on the results," he said.

"Executives often have to deal with problems caused by those who don't follow the rules. This act was committed by one individual, which made it very difficult to foresee."

A team of police led by Anti-Corruption Division (ACD) commander Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat Pankaew arrested Mr Rutchada, who faces charges of accepting bribes in exchange for giving his subordinates promotions. The police found an envelope containing 98,000 baht in his possession -- which police had planted as part of a sting operation -- as well as 4.9 million baht in his safe.

His arrest came after Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, former head of Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi, filed a complaint with ACD police against Mr Rutchada, accusing him of abusing his authority in transferring officials who refused to pay him 500,000 baht to positions far away from their home provinces. He was also accused of transferring money from the department's budget into his own pocket.

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