Niphon stands down to battle graft case
2013 malfeasance charge won't go away
published : 6 Sep 2022 at 05:00
newspaper section: News
writer: Mongkol Bangprapa
Niphon Bunyamanee, a deputy leader of the Democrat Party, has resigned as deputy interior minister to fight a court case for alleged malfeasance while he was president of the Songkhla provincial administration organisation (PAO) in 2013.
Mr Niphon said he informed suspended Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of his resignation yesterday morning, and he told Deputy Prime Minister Jurin Laksanawisit, the Democrat Party leader, on Sunday night. His resignation took effect on Monday.
It was commented on that Mr Niphon chose to mention Gen Prayut by name but not acting Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.
He said he told Gen Prayut and Mr Jurin that he did not want to fight the case while holding a ministerial post, even though he felt under no pressure to resign from the Democrat Party.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has ruled there are grounds to charge Mr Niphon under Section 157 of the Criminal Code for refusing to pay Ponlavit Tech Plus Co 52 million baht for road maintenance vehicles the Songkhla PAO called for by tender when Mr Niphon was its president in 2013.
The NACC initially ordered Mr Niphon to report to the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases on Aug 18.
Mr Niphon asked the NACC for a postponement to Sept 22, saying he was engaged with official duties.
The NACC rescheduled the reporting date to Sept 5.
Mr Niphon said he had chosen to resign on that day as it marked the beginning of the judicial process. He also posted a message on Facebook announcing his decision.
He said he could not pay Ponlavit Tech Plus Co, which won the bidding to sell road maintenance vehicles to the Songkhla PAO, because the bidders were found to have forged documents and indulged in price collusion, causing damage to the PAO.
The Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases Region 9 had issued warrants for the arrest of all bidders, including the winning company and its subsidiaries. Most of the suspects had fled abroad.
The suspects who were caught have been indicted in Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases Region 9, he said.
"Today, I am ready to fight the case in court to prove that my refusal to pay the bid-winning company was to protect the country's interest and not the malfeasance I have been accused of by the NACC. If we could go back to that time, I would still insist on not paying the company," he wrote.