Park saga now at an end, Prawit declares
The Rajabhakti Park saga has ended, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has declared.
A new report on the controversy over kickbacks demanded from foundry firms which cast the statues of seven former Thai kings at Rajabhakti Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan has left no doubts in his mind, he said Thursday.
"Nothing lingers in my mind. It has ended," Gen Prawit said, referring to the Centre for National Anti-Corruption's (CNAC) briefing on Wednesday which concluded no irregularities were found in the project.
"If cheating had been found, the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) would have taken drastic action against it," Gen Prawit said. "From now on, people who handle the project can press ahead with their work."
Gen Prawit, who is also defence minister, asked army commander Teerachai Nakwanich about whether the case had ended. Gen Teerachai replied it had.
Gen Teerachai was reported to have pushed the issue into the spotlight and wanted an investigation into the project.
The park sits on defence-owned land. The case centred on an amulet trader, called Sian U, who allegedly demanded kickbacks from foundries hired to cast the statues of kings in the park.
Speaking at the briefing, Office of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) secretary-general Prayong Preeyajit said the money was a transaction between private parties but it was regarded as a business-based reward as the amulet trader brought work to the foundries.
Also Thursday, former army chief Udomdej Sitabutr, who chairs the Rajabhakti Park Foundation, said the consulting fees were paid between the foundries and the amulet trader, who also has experience in this kind of work.
"The OAG described the payment as consulting fees and I believed it was suitable," Gen Udomdej said, adding it was not a commission fee.
The OAG is a "high-standard independent body" and never compromises with anyone, he said, insisting if nothing suspicious was found, this meant there was nothing wrong with the project. He said he was satisfied with the OAG's findings.
Gen Udomdej said he would press ahead with the project as its development has been stalled for six or seven months following the scandal. A hall will be built to showcase the former kings, he said, adding project donors would be keen to see the park completed.