Pheu Thai sharpens its claws
Censure to focus on land sold by PM
The opposition will raise the issue of a land sale by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's family as a highlight when it censures the government in a no-confidence debate expected in February.
Pheu Thai Party heavyweight Chalerm Ubamrung, chairman of the party's special affairs committee, said in a Facebook post on Friday that the land in question had been sold by Gen Prayut's father to a private company in 2013. The 50-rai plot of land was initially valued at 197.5 million baht, but allegedly sold for 600 million baht, Mr Chalerm claimed.
He also said that a team of 25 opposition MPs were ready to grill five members of the cabinet, though he will not be participating in the censure debate because he is not an MP.
Mr Chalerm added that the no-confidence debate will be launched between Chinese New Year on Jan 25 and the end of the parliament's current session on Feb 29.
"I can't say if the land sale issue will actually tarnish Gen Prayut, but I can assure you that the first round of the boxing match has started ... the opposition will not disappoint the public," he said.
He also said the incumbent government is actually a continuation of the last coup-installed administration, which had no opposition to scrutinise it over the past five years.
Apart from Gen Prayut, the other four ministers in the opposition's crosshairs are deputy PMs Wissanu Krea-ngam and Somkid Jatusripitak, Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda and Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai.
A Pheu Thai source said the opposition will take special aim at Gen Prayut as it wants to show how the premier allegedly benefited in a way that caused damages to the state.
The source added that the company that bought the land, 69 Property Co Ltd, had been created just seven days before the transaction.
The source added that the opposition will link this land sale to this same company getting a contract to manage and run the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre for 50 years.
The source also alleged that the contract was signed with the company without it going through the bidding process.
The issue of the land sale came to light in 2014 after the military coup.
At that time, Gen Prayut told reporters to stop digging into his family's 600-million-baht land sale, saying the land belonged to him since he was little.
"What's the problem? The buyer is not stupid. They won't buy anything they can't invest in further.
"The land had belonged to me from when I was a child as I lived there with my father. So what's the deal?" he asked then.
When asked about the land's buyer, whose major shareholder had a British Virgin Islands address, Gen Prayut said: "It's the company's business. I've got nothing to do with it."
Col Prapat Chan-o-cha, Gen Prayut's father, sold nine plots totalling 50 rai in Bangkok's Bang Bon district to 69 Property Co Ltd on May 9, 2013, seven days after the company was registered, according to Isara News Agency, which quoted official documents.
A major shareholder of the company at the time had a British Virgin Islands address, Isara News said, citing the Business Development Department's data.
The major shareholder now is a company linked to a liquor and property billionaire.
Thanakorn Wangboonkhongchana, spokesman of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, said the government is not afraid of the censure and that it's ready to clarify every issue.
He added that Gen Prayut and his government has been running the country transparently, adding that the opposition must also be careful when censuring the government.
When Pheu Thai led the government, it also faced allegations of corruption, Mr Thanakorn said, adding that the Pheu Thai-led opposition must show credible proof to back up its claims against the government during the censure debate otherwise it will be held accountable.