In another case of Fawlty Towerism – “I’m so sorry, but my wife has made a mistake!” – the junta is looking worse than silly.
The Nation reports that Deputy Defense Minister General Udomdej Sitabutr is squirming on the hook, but may slip off it as the cover-up on the corruption at Rajabhakti Park, the military’s 1 billion baht ode to loyalty to some monarchs. The project was “initiated when he [Udomdej] served as Army chief,” but the “Army’s fact-finding [read: cover-up] committee did not target Udomdej in its probe.”
Rather, the Army is blaming others and the junta is saying it – chock full of generals – had nothing to do with it.
A photo from The Straits Times
All of the corruption and “commissions” was by somebody other than military personnel: “We have focused on the fact that the Army’s reputation has allegedly been abused by someone who sought personal benefit through the project…”. When they name the person, “the Army definitely would sue wrongdoers if there was solid evidence of wrongdoing.” So maybe there isn’t solid evidence? Maybe it was the Army itself and its senior commanders? After all, that is the pattern of military corruption.
If Udomdej gets named, it must be that his “name is abused,” and then he decides “whether he will sue the culprits…”. This is smelling like a haul of fish caught by Navy-supplied slaves.
That the “Army set up a fact-finding panel to investigate alleged irregularities in the Rajabhakti Park project” sounds good until, after reading the above, it is realized that the “goal” is “protecting its [the Army’s] reputation”!
The story from the military still seems to be that “some people did demand personal benefits through the project but after their actions were detected, they returned the money.” And, as Udomdej has stated, they then donated it back to the project. That fish odor will not go away.
Questions about the transparency of the Rajabhakti Park project emerged after Colonel Kachachart Boondee, a staff officer at the Third Army Area, was charged earlier this month with lese majeste along with the late famous fortune-teller Suriyan Sujaritpolwong’s secretary Jirawong Wattanathewasilp. It was alleged that they had falsely cited the Royal Family to demand money from big companies.
Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan is busy handing out air freshener for the junta, playing down the scandal: “It’s not a big deal…”. He makes this point by declaring that the “budget used for the project did not come from state coffers.” It must be okay to use money from private citizens corruptly.
When asked if the scandal meant the Army and the junta had a strong whiff of anchovies, Prawit said, “No.”
Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha was clearer: “his government would not take any responsibility over alleged corruption in the Rajabhakti Park project.” Readers might ask “Why not?”, but Prayuth has the answer: “Why should the government be held responsible?” Oh, sorry, that’s a question, not an answer.
The junta is seeking to delay “answers.” We assume this means they need to get their story straight. The Bangkok Post reports that the “investigation” is “unlikely to be completed within a week as initially scheduled.”
Prawit says there’s “much more work remains to be done.” Ah, um, er, general, you have already said it ain’t a big deal…. Wait! It’s not a big deal “like the Khlong Dan waste water scandal…”.* And, he’s not sure how much it cost: “As for the about 1 billion baht spent on construction of the park, Gen Prawit said, he could not be certain that much really went into it.” Prayuth isn’t sure either! But certainly more than a ton of plah-rah, that’s for sure.
The committee is “still ploughing through reports on the probe with no indication of when it would finish.” Maybe the smelly fish can be wrapped in the reports.
Prayuth couldn’t keep his mouth shut and decided to “warn” the “critics should not attempt to make the Rajabhakti Park matter a political issue.” No politics in it at all. Just the junta, the Army and a mountain of rotting sardines.
Again asked if the government would take responsibility, Prayuth said: “How does the government take responsibility for this alleged misconduct and why?” That’s military “democracy” at work! Blame everyone else.
We can’t wait to hear who is going to take the fall.
*The Klong Dan Wastewater Project is worthy of study. It was approved by the Chuan Leekpai and Democrat Party-led government in 1995. In recent days the junta has a greed to pay out on a court ruling in 2012 that gives about 8-9 billion baht to the original contractors. For the slippery details on this, see here (opens a small PDF), here (opens a larger PDF, and then read the Chang Noi article) and here.