NACC told to hasten cop station probes

NACC told to hasten cop station probes

Petition for separate inquiry on the cards

Police in Thanyaburi district just north of Bangkok were forced to move into this unfinished station when contractors walked off the job in 2010. (File photo)
Police in Thanyaburi district just north of Bangkok were forced to move into this unfinished station when contractors walked off the job in 2010. (File photo)

The United Lawyers for Rights and Liberty is pressing the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to speed up probes into irregularities in police station construction projects, saying the anti-graft agency would be held to account if they failed to do so.

Secretary-general of the civic group, Winyat Chatmontree, petitioned NACC president Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit Thursday, asking that the agency wrap up the investigation quickly.

The construction of 396 police stations in question, worth 6.67 billion baht, was part of a project endorsed by cabinet members during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration.

Then deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban was accused of not having consulted fellow ministers regarding changes made later to the project. He allegedly granted PCC Development & Construction the right to be the sole contractor, which was accused of abandoning the project later.

The NACC in 2013 set up a panel to determine whether Mr Suthep had breached Section 157 of the Criminal Code by committing misconduct or dereliction of duty regarding his handling of the project.

Mr Winyat stressed that Pol Gen Watcharapol should stick to his word that there would be an answer about the case by the end of this year.

According to Mr Winyat, despite five years of investigation, the NACC does not appear to be making headway as nothing conclusive has emerged. The probe is also running into delays.

He said an NACC sub-committee probing the case, led by Vicha Mahakul, earlier agreed that Mr Suthep abused his authority, but no progress has been made after that. The sub-committee was in charge of collecting evidence on the ground and interviewing witnesses.

Mr Winyat also alleged that NACC member Supha Piyajitti, in charge of cases related to procurement scrutiny, had pointed out the project had proceeded differently from the working guideline which the cabinet had approved.

"The NACC chairman is duty-bound to find out who must be responsible for the damage that occurred to the state. If he failed to do that, it would be he who has to bear the responsibility," the lawyer said.

If the anti-graft agency is not up to the task, at least 20,000 signatures will be gathered to be sent in a petition via the House speaker to the Supreme Court.

The petition will ask the Supreme Court to set up an independent body to probe the NACC's handling of the case in line with Section 236 of the charter.

Mr Suthep in 2013 filed the defamation suit against Tarit Pengdith, former chief of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), who blamed him on the failure of the project.

The Supreme Court last week gave one year in jail to Tarit in the case.

Mr Winyat stressed the defamation case and the graft case handled by the NACC are different, saying the anti-graft agency must conclude whether Mr Suthep committed misconduct in connection with the project.

According to him, the libel case does not require the court to deliberate whether those involved with the project committed the offence.

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