Rajabhakti probe 'needs more time'
Prayut denies govt should take the blame
The government admitted Tuesday that the investigation into irregularities surrounding the construction of Rajabhakti Park in Hua Hin district of Prachuap Khiri Khan was unlikely to be completed within a week as initially scheduled.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said much more work remains to be done.
Army commander Gen Theerachai Nakvanich is in charge of the investigation and if the media has any questions regarding the probe, Gen Theerachai is the right person to ask, said Gen Prawit.
"I insist this is not a big issue like the Khlong Dan waste water scandal," he said.
As for the about 1 billion baht spent on construction of the park, Gen Prawit said, he could not be certain that much really went into it.
Gen Veerun Chantasatkosol, chairman of the army's advisory board, in his capacity as chairman of the committee set up to probe the project, said the panel needed more time to go through documents.
But even if the results of the investigation were unlikely to be available by tomorrow as planned, the committee would report preliminary findings to Gen Theerachai, said Gen Veerun.
Starting out last Friday, the committee looked at the process which organisers used to select the foundries chosen to cast statues of seven Thai kings for the park, he said.
The committee was also looking into details of the donations received to fund the project, the landscape upgrade given to the park, and the organisation of the Bike for Rajabhakti event and an associated concert, he said.
It was still ploughing through reports on the probe with no indication of when it would finish.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, meanwhile, said critics should not attempt to make the Rajabhakti Park matter a political issue.
Critics of the investigation into the case should let the probe run its course so any culprits can be brought to justice, he said.
He also said he didn't know the exact amount of money spent but estimated it could be huge given the size of the statues produced and installed at the park.
Asked if he would hold talks with former army chief Udomdej Sitabutr, who oversaw the project, Gen Prayut said he saw no reason why he should.
He said the person with whom he has to communicate regarding the investigation is Gen Prawit.
The project was initiated by the army under the leadership of Gen Udomdej who is now the deputy defence minister.
Asked whether the government would take responsibility in the event corruption was found, Gen Prayut said: "How does the government take responsibility for this alleged misconduct and why?"
In related news, acting deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said police were working on 12 reports of a cluster of investigations into a high-profile lese majeste case.
The reports had been received from the Crime Suppression Division and were being reviewed, he said. One previous report received had now been processed, he said.
An army colonel implicated by Suriyan "Mor Yong" Sucharitpolwong, a suspect in the lese majeste case who died while in military custody, is also allegedly linked to the park project.
Central Investigation Bureau commissioner Thitiraj Nongharnpitak confirmed reports he had approved the resignations of four policemen who were among the eight earlier transferred to inactive posts when the lese majeste scandal surfaced last month.
The criminal case would continue despite their resignations, he said.
They are Pol Col Siwapong Patpongpanich, Pol Col Pairote Rojanakhachorn, Pol Lt Col Thammawat Hiranyalekha, and Pol Lt Col Jirawat Boonwattanaporn, according to the source.