Vatana has not returned, says source
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Vatana has not returned, says source

Vatana Asavahame (screenshot)
Vatana Asavahame (screenshot)

Veteran politician Vatana Asavahame, who fled the country in 2008 after he was convicted for abuse of power, has yet to return to Thailand, according to a source close to the Asavahame family.

The claim comes after a clip which supposedly shows Vatana, a veteran Samut Prakan politician, hosting a group of politicians from the province at a house in an unknown location, made its round on social media.

Vatana, a former deputy interior minister, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Supreme Court's Criminal Case Division for Persons Holding Political Position back in 2008, over the Klong Dan wastewater treatment plant controversy.

The Klong Dan project was endorsed in 1995 by the Democrat-led government of then prime minister Chuan Leekpai.

The clip, which was first posted on June 3 by Chana Nguanngamsri, a member of Samut Prakan provincial administrative organisation (PAO), sparked rumours that Vatana would soon return to Thailand, as the 15-year statute of limitation for the case had already expired.

However, the source said that Vatana is not currently in the country, adding the reception, which was held for a group of local politicians who recently paid him a visit, took place at his residence in a neighbouring country.

Another source also refuted claims that Vatana would soon return, saying the former politician was actually convicted on two separate counts, but only one case — which concerns irregularities in the procurement of land for the project — has expired. 

The second case, which involves collusion to fix prices, has yet to expire, the source said.

In the viral clip, Vatana could be seen extending his support to Soontorn Pansangtong, former deputy minister of agriculture and cooperatives, who is planning to enter the Samut Prakan PAO chairmanship race later this year. 

He also said that the Asavahame family is still in the political arena and that Mr Soontorn is one of the family's political heirs. 

It was also reported that Nantida Kaewbuasai, head of the PAO and wife of the late politician Chonsawat Asavahame, Vatana's son, will not seek re-election when her term expires in December.

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