Pheu Thai demands Udomdej resign over Rajabhakti

Pheu Thai demands Udomdej resign over Rajabhakti

Senior military officers conduct a religious ceremony to worship the statues of former Thai kings at the Rajabhakti Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan province in September. (Photo by Krit Promsaka na Sakolnakorn)
Senior military officers conduct a religious ceremony to worship the statues of former Thai kings at the Rajabhakti Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan province in September. (Photo by Krit Promsaka na Sakolnakorn)

The Pheu Thai Party demanded Friday that Gen Udomdej Sitabutr resign as the deputy defence minister over alleged corruption in the Rajabhakti Park project.

In a statement released today, the party kicked out of power in last year's military coup asserted that Gen Udomdej, the former army chief who headed the Rajabhakti Foundation during the Hua Hin park's scandal-plagued construction, should take responsibility by quitting because construction costs were unusually high, there were reports of irregularities, and his close military aides are wanted on arrest warrants for corruption in the project.

Pheu Thai also called for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon to take responsibility because they earlier denied the park was funded by the government's budget.

The party quoted Chaisit Trachoetham, chairman of the State Audit Commission, as saying that the tourist attraction celebrating former kings was funded with 63.8 million baht in public funds, even though the entire cost was supposed to be covered by donations.

Gen Prawit denied the allegation of state funds use.

Regarding the Defence Ministry's investigation into the 1-billion-baht project, Pheu Thai expressed its doubts about the neutrality of the probe. It repeated a call for other anti-graft agencies to take up the investigation, including the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), police, Office of the Auditor General, Department of Special Investigation and the Anti-Money Laundering Office.

Gen Prawit said on Friday that the Defence Ministry set up its investigative committee to look into the park project and Gen Chaicharn Changmongkol, deputy permanent secretary for defence, will head the panel.

The investigation will cover suspected military officers and the probers will forward cases with possible irregularities to the NACC and the OAG for further actions, Gen Prawit said.

He neither commented on whether the probe would reach Gen Udomdej nor set a timeframe for the investigation. He told reporters that he would not answer reporters' questions on the park project until the conclusion of the investigation.

Prime Minister Prayut responded on Friday that the Rajabhakti Park project was beneficial to the country and resulted from good intentions. Only a handful of people had abused the project for personal gain and would be punished. People should not conclude that everyone involved in the project was bad, he added.

Asked for a comment on Pheu Thai's demand for him to take responsibility, the prime minister said that government funds had been allocated in line with regulations and any examination had to focus on the spending.

He then questioned whether the former Pheu Thai-led government was willing to take responsibility for its loss-ridden rice pledging scheme.

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