PM purges 70 more in govt graft sweep

PM purges 70 more in govt graft sweep

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has used Section 44 emergency powers to transfer another 70 officials to inactive posts for possible corruption. (AP photo)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has used Section 44 emergency powers to transfer another 70 officials to inactive posts for possible corruption. (AP photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has suspended or transferred to inactive posts a further 70 state officials, including senior civil servants and elected local administrators, under Section 44 of the interim charter.

In the second round of suspensions in an ongoing corruption sweep, investigations into the officials prompted their removal from supervisory posts to inactive roles or temporary cessation of work pending probe results.

The first round, initiated on May 15, saw 45 senior officials suspended over graft allegations.

Out of the 70 additional officials now under investigation, 20 are permanent state officials, seven are chairpersons of provincial administrative organisations (PAOs), 17 are elected officials of tambon administrative organisations (TAOs) and 18 are mayors or municipal council members. The remaining officials are attached to local bodies.

Meanwhile, the now ex-permanent secretary for tourism and sports Suwat Sitthilor, has been transferred to become a special adviser at the Prime Minister's Office.

Mr Suwat was suspended after appearing on the first list in May for allegedly buying 7 million baht worth of overpriced and unsuitable exercise equipment for schools overseen by the Department of Physical Education, which fell under the oversight of the Ministry of Sports and Tourism.

According to an article published Thursday in the Royal Gazette, officials relegated to inactive posts in their respective ministries include: Kwanchai Wongnitikorn, director-general of the Interior Ministry's Community Development Department; Chaiwat Pannara, deputy governor of Kamphaeng Phet; Rangsan Maneelek, deputy secretary-general of the Office of Basic Education Commission; Winai Sawasdivorn, secretary-general of the National Health Security Office; and Pol Col Niran Adulyasak, director of the Department of Special Investigation's (DSI) Bureau of Technology and Information Inspection Centre.

The suspended seven provincial chairpersons are: Chonsawat Asavahame of Samut Prakan, Pornchai Kowsurat of Ubon Ratchathani, Yutthana Sritabutr of Nong Khai, Paiboon Upattisaring of Phuket, Sathiraporn Naksuk of Yasothon, Somchob Nitipoj of Nakhon Phanom and Sunee Sommee of Lampang.

Mr Winai, the NHSO secretary-general, is under investigation for allegedly mismanaging the universal healthcare budget, said a source from the Centre for National Anti-Corruption.

Mr Chonsawat of Samut Prakan was barred from duty for alleged irregularities in the province's temple subsidies, said the source.

Pol Col Niran, of the DSI, is believed to have been involved in an unscrupulous deal to purchase firearms, according to the Auditor-General's Office.

The Interior Ministry's Mr Kwanchai allegedly commissioned a corrupt coastal erosion project in 2008 when he was Samut Prakan governor.

That case was forwarded directly to Gen Prayut by the audit office, said Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda.

Gen Paojinda will soon propose a replacement for Mr Kwanchai and, in the meantime, one of the deputies will serve as the acting director-general of the Interior Ministry.

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