Auditor-general: Nothing amiss in Prawit trip
published : 7 Oct 2016 at 18:25
writer: Wichit Chantanusornsiri
Auditor General Pisit Leelavachiropas has confirmed that Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon's trip to Hawaii late last month was free of irregularities related to the flights and their meals.
Regarding the much-discussed trip to the US-Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting in Honolulu from Sept 29 to Oct 2, Mr Pisit said the delegation's use of a Thai Airways International charter was appropriate.
He asked rhetorically if it would be suitable for the delegates to walk down from the plane of another country at an airport reception ceremony.
Mr Pisit said the expense for a chartered flight and a regular flight to Hawaii would be similar at between 300,000 and 600,000 baht per person. However, the time spent on a regular but connecting flight could range from 16 to 33 hours depending on schedules, he said.
THAI proposed the chartered service as the duration of a direct chartered flight on the route was controllable at only 11 hours, he said. There are no direct regular flights from Thailand to Hawaii.
Mr Pisit also said that without the chartered service, Gen Prawit's delegation would have had to board connecting flights. That would have forced them to depart from Thailand earlier and taxpayers would have faced an even higher bill including allowances for state officials travelling with Gen Prawit, who is also the defence minister.
THAI has yet to send the final bill for the flight as it needs to calculate various charges imposed by other countries, while the in-flight meals were sourced from other airlines, the auditor-general said.
Mr Pisit also defended the airline's decision to use a Boeing 747-400 with more than 400 seats for the 39-member delegation. He said the use of the aircraft did not affect its regular flight schedules and the plane could operate an intercontinental flight.
The trip by the Prawit delegation has touched off a lively debate in social media and other online forums. Rumours have also spread online about who was really on the trip and for what purpose. THAI is considering suing some outlets that posted what they claimed to be the passenger list.
Mr Pisit said the delegates who travelled with Gen Prawit had been chosen to attend various meetings in Hawaii, where other issues under discussion besides defence included aviation, labour, human trafficking, narcotics and corruption.
The four passengers who were not soldiers or police officers were a reporter, a cameraman and two officials from the PM's Office,he said.
He said the in-flight meals were of THAI's normal standard. There were only nine VIP passengers and their meals included caviar as part of the airline's standard VIP service. Gen Prawit has insisted that he ate only noodles.
It was impossible to reject caviar and seek a fee reduction, Mr Pisit added.