Ombudsman probes BMA's New Year light extravaganza

Ombudsman probes BMA's New Year light extravaganza

The 39-million-baht
The 39-million-baht "Bangkok Light of Happiness" New Year illumination event in front of City Hall. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The Office of the Ombudsman is urging people who have details of irregular spending on the 39-million-baht "Bangkok Light of Happiness" New Year illumination event to come forward and make complaints.

Organised by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the illuminations start today and run until Jan 30 at Lan Khon Muang, the square in front of City Hall's offices on Din So Road.

Financial irregularity checks will be made to ensure transparency, Office of the Ombudsman secretary-general, Raksakecha Chaechay, said yesterday.

The light show has been dismissed by many as a waste of money.

Critics, mostly netizens said the money would be better spent on CCTV cameras and improved lighting in crime-prone areas to protect the public and properties.

Pranee Sattayaprakob, head of the BMA's Culture, Sport and Tourism Department, admitted yesterday that Ombudsman officials had run a check on the bidding process for the project.

Everything concerning the event was carried out carefully to promote openess and transparency. The project is aimed at promoting tourism in the city as there will be a large influx of tourists during the festive season, she said.

About 39 million baht had been spent on the event. It is derived from the budget for 2016, not from the civil contingencies fund, Ms Pranee said. Illuminations are not new, a BMA source said. It is a City Hall tradition to put up New Year light displays each year to allow people to enjoy a beautifully decorated city centre.

Last year, locations along the Chao Phraya River were lit up. This year the light display is at Lan Khon Meuang, the source added.

A total of 5 million LED lights and crystal light fixtures are being used to light up Lan Khon Muang, turning the square into a lavishly decorated spot.

Many light displays and arches made out of crystal light fixtures of all shapes and colours are in place for the event.

The building that houses the City Hall offices is also adorned with a total of 500,000 LED lights. Entertainment and fun activities, including concerts by leading bands and cultural shows, are all part of the event, according to source.

Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said the BMA is staging the event to return happiness to the people.

It is inspired by similar events in other countries, he added.

It would help boost tourism as it will be the place to be on New Year's Eve, the Bangkok governor noted.

"I just want to add spice to city residents' lives and return happiness to them. The [lights] are worth investing in. We don't waste money," MR Sukhumbhand said.

He did not say how many people he expected would attend the event.

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