PM defends wife on graft claim
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PM defends wife on graft claim

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during a censure debate in the parliament, Bangkok. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during a censure debate in the parliament, Bangkok. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has defended his wife, Naraporn, who the opposition accused of being linked to irregularities in the deal to install a biometric system for the Immigration Bureau.

On the third day of the censure debate on Wednesday, Gen Prayut said his wife had nothing to do with the deal as claimed by Pheu Thai MP Wisarn Techatheerawat.

Mr Wisarn said the biometric project, with a median price set at 1.7 billion baht, had initially been launched in 2016, but scrapped because there were no bidders.

The project was later revived with new terms of reference and a higher median price of 2.1 billion baht, and a consortium apparently won the bid despite not providing collateral or having any experience in the installation of biometric systems.

It signed the contract in 2017, and appended to the contract was a requirement that the work be finished by May, 2019, or the contractor will have to pay 5 million baht per day if the deadline was missed.

Mr Wisarn said that in October 2019, the Immigration Bureau told the national police chief, who had proposed the biometric system in the first place, that the consortium was falling behind in its work and there was a problem hooking it up with the immigration database.

Despite its tardiness, the consortium negotiated an extension to the deadline and changed the brand of the biometric devices, which were bought at highly-inflated prices.

The MP claimed an executive of the consortium had attended the "Programme for Senior Executives on Justice Administration Batch 16", at which Ms Naraporn -- whom he referred to as a "madam behind Government House" -- and the police general who had initiated the project were also present.

Mr Wisarn said the project has caused damage to the state and he planned to file a petition the National Anti-Corruption Commission against Gen Prayut for alleged malfeasance and dereliction of duty under Section 157 of the Criminal Code.

Gen Prayut shot back saying it was unfair to assume that people participating in the same study would be complicit in wrongdoing.

"If there is anything wrong, it affects an individual. I trust my wife. Her name has been abused many times," he said, adding "my wife has always warned to never engage in corruption".

He also said the agency behind the contract may be to blame for not preparing the groundwork, which contributed to the slow installation progress.

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