Activist demands action on pork scandal

Activist demands action on pork scandal

Lawyer Achariya Ruangrattanapong asks Move Forward Party to push for progress in investigations

Some of the 35 tonnes of seized smuggled pork worth 7.3 million baht are displayed at a briefing held by the Customs Department on Sept 19, 2022. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
Some of the 35 tonnes of seized smuggled pork worth 7.3 million baht are displayed at a briefing held by the Customs Department on Sept 19, 2022. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

Activist lawyer Achariya Ruangrattanapong has asked the opposition Move Forward Party to push for action on the smuggled pork scandal, saying the public has not seen any progress despite confessions from some government officials involved.

Mr Achariya visited parliament on Thursday to ask Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome, who chairs the House committee on national security, border affairs, strategy and reforms, to investigate pork-related corruption and the lack of prosecutions so far against those involved.

The lawyer noted that government officials from three different departments had confessed involvement, reportedly along with some politicians, in illegal exports of chicken feet to China, as well as exporting petrol to Myanmar and importing it back to Thailand over the past six years to avoid tax, amounting to 20 billion baht.

If the House committee calls him in for questioning, he said he has prepared evidence of kickbacks received by government officials, some of them permanent secretaries and ministers.

“The documents revealed a clear connection [to high-ranking officials],” Mr Achariya said. “Logistics staff also confessed their involvement. Also, officials from the Department of Livestock Development, the Fisheries Department and the Customs Department admitted that the smuggling had involved those who are in the higher ranks.”

Mr Rangsiman said the extent of the pork smuggling in recent years has exposed Thailand’s problematic law enforcement.

“If we do not enforce legal actions, we cannot guarantee that agricultural imports are up to standard or are even safe for public consumption,” the MP said. “Not to mention that [the smuggling] had involved influential figures in the country, whose actions have damaged the prospects for livestock and agricultural products locally produced in Thailand.”

Mr Rangsiman said the committee he chairs would consider Mr Achariya’s complaint, saying that the damage from pork smuggling was within the committee’s jurisdiction.

Pursuing everyone involved is not an impossible task, but rather it is a matter of the government being willing to end the matter according to the law, he said.

“[The government] is abandoning Thai agriculturalists. We don’t know if they will survive,” he said. “The government must provide truthful information to people when a crisis happens. They should not worry about hurting product prices in the market. People will be prepared if the state tells them the truth.”

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) reported earlier that it had found at least 10 civil servants and politicians involved in the smuggling of 161 containers of pork worth 460 million baht in 2021 and 2022.

The DSI has sent its case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission for further action.

Shortly after releasing the findings of its initial investigation, DSI director-general Suriya Singhakamol was abruptly transferred to a post at the Ministry of Justice, stoking suspicion that some politicians might be getting nervous.

Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompow said that inspections of freezers in 77 provinces from Oct 10 to Nov 22 by the Department of Livestock Development and the Department of Fisheries found 92 cases of unlawful meat storage, totalling 2,500 tonnes worth 287.72 million baht.

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