Rajabhakti investigation gathers pace

Rajabhakti investigation gathers pace

CNAC to assess Defence findings

Deputy Defence Minister Udomdej Sitabutr, centre of the Rajabhakti Park scandal probes, gives an offering to monks during a New Year merit-making ceremony at Government House Tuesday. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)
Deputy Defence Minister Udomdej Sitabutr, centre of the Rajabhakti Park scandal probes, gives an offering to monks during a New Year merit-making ceremony at Government House Tuesday. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)

Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya insisted Tuesday the investigation into the Rajabhakti Park scandal by the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) is expected to accelerate after it receives findings from the Defence Ministry inquiry into the project.

Speaking in his capacity as chairman of the Centre for National Anti-Corruption (CNAC) of which the OAG is a part, Gen Paiboon said the CNAC met on Monday to discuss the investigation's progress in the park construction scandal.

The OAG has begun inspecting some parts of the project. It is expected to speed up its probe upon obtaining findings from the Defence Ministry's fact-finding committee, which concluded that no spending irregularities were detected in the project but failed to talk to key witnesses involved.

"The CNAC will have to clear up all doubts the public may have about the scandal. We will play by the rules," he said.

The minister said all sides will be allowed to ask any questions they have about the investigation.

He cautioned that people should not jump to conclusions before learning the facts. 

He also welcomed Pheu Thai Party legal expert Ruangkrai Leekitwattana's vow to seek detailed information about the park construction project's accounts and submit them to the OAG for inspection. 

Gen Paiboon said the CNAC is open to any submission of information or tip-offs about the park's construction and would invite everyone implicated in the scandal for questioning.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda declined to comment on the change of the Rajabhakti Park Foundation's name to "Rajabhakti Park Foundation under the Royal Patronage of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn".

The change reportedly was approved by Krisada Boonraj, permanent secretary for the interior in his capacity as the registrar of foundations registered in Bangkok. The foundation's new name was announced in the Royal Gazette.

Deputy Defence Minister Udomdej Sitabutr, who is at the centre of the controversy as he chairs the foundation, said some foundation members were replaced as they had gone into mandatory retirement.

"I insist the part of the investigation concerning some former committee members is still ongoing," he said, adding that he was confident the committee had followed regulations in implementing the project.

Gen Udomdej said senior state officials involved in conducting the investigation should examine details of the project carefully before they make any comments in public.

The foundries commissioned to cast the statues of the great kings at the park and the amulet trader who demanded commission fees from them had nothing to do with the foundation's committee, said Gen Udomdej.

"Don't say [the committee] may have violated Section 157 [of the Criminal Code covering dereliction of duty] because the committee wasn't involved,"he said.

Previously, Gen Udomdej revealed that the amulet trader cited "people in authority" to demand commission fees from some foundry owners who were contracted to cast the statues.

He sent a negotiator to ask the amulet trader to return the money to the foundry owners and when the money was returned, the foundry owners "donated" the money to the park.

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