The “consultancy” on Corruption Park

19 02 2016

The Nation has a report on “investigations” into Corruption Park.This is one of the first stories since Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn was announced as a patron of the park.

We have trouble following it, but as it refers to the mysterious “amulet trader,” we thought some readers will find it useful.

The report refers to the “amulet trader at the centre of the Rajabhakti Park scandal” and says he “has denied demanding bribes from the casters of the giant statues of great kings, testifying that Bt20 million was donated to the park in Prachuap Khiri Khan on behalf of the five foundries.”

It turns out that the “amulet trader” also owns a foundry. It isn’t clear if this is one of the foundries making the statues of dead and one live king.

We guess this is trying to marry a story to Deputy Defence Minister General Udomdej Sitabutr’s claims about “donations.”

This “investigation” is by Auditor-General Pisit Leelawachiropas who went on television to disclose (why?) that the “trader presented evidence of his services for the five foundries involving advising on, supervising and solving problems with their work.”

Amulet trading seems to involve skills one would not necessarily assume. More, he claims that these unusual skills were paid at “Bt20 million in instalments as consulting fee and for expenses.” That’s quite a fee!

The Auditor-General’s Office seems to buy this story and the remarkable claim that the 20 million was first used to “construct a temple” but that the “trader” then had second thoughts (was there a gun involved, pointed at him?) and then “transferred the money via his foundry’s bank account to the park fund…”.

It is a strange series of events.

Replacing the king II

17 01 2016

In an earlier post PPT commented on how the Constitutional Court was being set up in the draft constitution in ways that transferred some of the king’s formal and “informal” political power to the court.

The idea is that the current monarch could (kind of) be trusted to do the right thing by the elite that craves economic and social power. No one is exactly sure where the next king will take things, so the institutionalization of elite political desires is the strategy for insuring the future. This doesn’t mean dumping the monarchy, just making sure that political power doesn’t depend on an undependable monarch (and the Chakris have had a few).

It seems that the royalist charter manipulators are doing even more to ensure the stability of the social, political and economic order. The Nation reports that other “independent agencies” are being given additional power.

Of course, none of these agencies are in fact “independent” as all are controlled by the royalists.

The charter fixers have decided that the Election Commission, National Anti-Corruption Commission and Auditor-General can be “more proactive under the new charter and free to initiate inquiries without complaints being filed…”.

Considering the sometimes extra-legal roles these organizations have played in bringing down several elected governments, this is likely to be seen by royalists as a great move. For anyone with any remaining hope for Thailand’s democratization, this will be a bitter blow.

Constitution Drafting Commission chairman Meechai Ruchupan says that these unelected bodies “could give warnings to the Cabinet in cases where its policies or actions could potentially cause trouble for the country.” In other words, elected governments will always be overruled by unelected royalists.

This “warning” would be “a resolution of all three commissions,” and while a government could ignore the warning, the failure to heed the warning would certainly see the government fall. This is the “crisis committee” in the sense that a warning would create a crisis. A crisis could be created from a media report that one of the agencies decided to “investigate.”

Meechai said the ” independent agencies” would not be subject to any scrutiny. According to Meechai, they would “check themselves” through “a legal code on ethics.” Just for a bit of extra elite control, this “code” would also be applied to “parliamentarians and the Cabinet.”

Elected politicians simply cannot be trusted because they respond to the riff-raff who elect them.

In line with this, The Nation also reports that MPs and Cabinet members can be banned for life from politics if they are “found to have proposed a motion concerning annual state budgets in favour of other members…”. They will be removed from office and also “have to repay the money spent in relation to the project or projects they had voted for…”. More draconian, if the “malpractice concerned a particular Cabinet member, the whole Cabinet could be subject to removal from office as well.”

Exactly how this might be defined and who would decide on a breach is not explained except that another group of unelected royalists will come up with “the principles of financial discipline” to regulate government spending.

In essence, as we predicted some time ago, the idea is that elected politicians will not be able to campaign on a policy platform and implement it without the approval of the unelected.

Article 44 used for money-making by the junta

8 01 2016

There has been quite a bit of debate and editorial comment on the military dictatorship’s move to neuter and take over the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth). PPT hasn’t followed the mini-coup all that closely, but a few lines in a report today suggested a reason for increased interest.

As far as we can tell, ThaiHealth has been quite successful. Yet a couple of days ago, The Dictator used the draconian Article 44 to suspend seven board members of ThaiHealth along with 52 other “state officials ordered to leave their duties pending probes, mostly concerning alleged irregularities and malfeasance.”

A junta “investigation” reckons that the organization’s budget last year was misused.The junta claims conflicts of interest. (PPT can’t imagine the junta turning the same lens on itself, for the regime is riddled with such conflicts. Just another example of double standards.) In fact, a Bangkok Post report makes it clear that the board members followed the “rules” on conflicts of interest.

Rabid rightist-royalists have condemned ThaiHealth [clicking this link takes the reader to a very strange conspiratorial world linking Oregon and Bangkok] as a kind of NGO-cuddling cabal somehow linked to international and US-based organizations undermining the world and Thai sovereignty. Even the Puea Thai Party has got into the act on ThaiHealth.

According to the Bangkok Post story linked above, a government source says that ousting the board members will “provide an opportunity for the government to change rules governing the agency’s spending so it can use the money to fund the regime’s projects.” No conflict of interest there….

As well as getting its hands on the “sin taxes” that funded ThaiHealth, this move also allows the junta to twist a knife into some of the organizations it sees as too liberal and thus untrustworthy or as oppositional.

Vichai Chokevivat, the ousted deputy board chairman, sees that the junta has targeted ThaiHealth: “He said the charter writing panel headed by Borwornsak Uwanno attempted to take away the earmarked taxes from ThaiHealth last year and force the agency to obtain funds from the fiscal budget in the future.” When the charter writers backed down “the Office of the Auditor-General and the military regime’s panel investigating suspicious spending of state funds stepped in…”.

While not all anti-military, a bunch of groups targeted in this move include irritant groups like Isra News. It has been received some funding from ThaiHealth and has exhibited an interest in the junta’s wealth and military spending. ThaiPBS has been seen as unreliable for the junta and it also received some funding. The Komol Keemthong Foundation also received some funds, and that is associated with Sulak Sivaraksa, considered a thorn in the side of palace and military for many years. Also funded was the October 14 Foundation is generally considered a pain for the military, who, of course, have never massacred students.

More interesting are the foundations from the royalist side that have been supportive of the 2006 and 2014 military coups and which have been funded by ThaiHealth. The Rural Doctor Foundation has supported both military coups and is associated with the aged royalist busybody Prawase Wasi. That said, it tends to be supportive of the universal health program the junta would dearly love to scrap. Then there is the Thai Rural Reconstruction Movement, which is now miles removed from the ideals it was set up to achieve more than 40 years ago. Now run by a bunch of aging bureaucrats, minor princes and royalist propagandists for the loopy sufficiency economy idea.

It will be interesting to see how these organizations respond to the use of Article 44 to target them in a “case” that would appear concocted in order to serve the junta’s interests.

Jaruvan joins the royalist senate team

31 03 2014

PPT was interested to note that none of the anti-democrats decided to block the Senate election. Of course, this is because the anti-democrats know that, as the Senate is half-appointed, they are guaranteed to “win” in the sense that they really only need a couple of elected royalists to consider that they have a “win.”

It is only elections that the anti-democrats think they might lose that they choose to boycott and block.

In Bangkok, the Senate election appears to have resulted in a victory for yet another quite mad monarchist in former Auditor-General Jaruvan Maintaka. Searching PPT’s tag for her produces several stories that indicate her previous “career” as royalist, her desperation to hold her post, despite rules that required her to leave.

Jaruvan claimed that her continued occupation of her office represented an effort to “save the country.” Supported by various royalist, palace and military groups, she said she would “remain loyal to the monarchy until my last breath…”.


Thaksin on top, still

25 12 2010

Just as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva gave himself top marks for his administration, and as the Democrat Party signaled it was in campaign mode, the news from a very large survey by the King Prajadhipok Institute must he a worry.

The survey of 30,000 found that the “Thaksin Shinawatra administration is the most popular government with Thais over the past eight years.”

PPT hastens to add that this does not represent voting intentions, for they are shaped as much by repression, the military, and the regime’s political machinations, but it must be cause for teeth grinding when the “results showed the popularity of the Thaksin government and Thaksin himself remain high because they marketed their policies well and addressed issues related to people’s living conditions.”

In this survey, every element of the Abhisit regime seems in trouble (leraving aside the monarchy, which can’t be properly surveyed). The military be concerned that its “support has fallen off in the past two years…”. All that killing may have something to do with it, along with visible corruption.

That other bastion for the regime, the courts “including the Constitution Court, fell to a low level this year.” And just to round things out for the royalist regime: “Confidence in the National Anti-Corruption Commission, Office of the Auditor-General, and Election Commission has continued to drop throughout the eight years…. Thais also have low confidence in the National Economic and Social Advisory Committee and National Human Rights Committee.”

Abhisit’s political chaos

21 09 2010

While it is true that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his palace and military backers want the government to stay in power for as long as possible, it is looking a ragged and pathetic government at present.

Earlier, PPT posted on the army’s missing weapons. Not surprisingly, exactly the weapons involved in recent “bomb attacks” in Bangkok and nearby. Just today, even more stunning revelations and actions have left PPT amused and appalled at the same time.

The Nation reports that the political police at the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) have “received autopsy results of the 89 people killed during the recent political unrest” but is now not sure that these much-awaited reports “can be made public…”. That’s according to the seemingly befuddled DSI chief Tharit Pengdit. He now wants to have “the results verified by the Office of the Attorney-General, the Metropolitan Police Bureau and the Central Institute of Forensic Medicine.” That sounds like stalling and posterior protection.

But are the reports truly finished or is this just political grandstanding? Tharit’s still calling for more evidence from the public. What is going on?

The second bemusing story relates to a public scuffle between the dueling auditors-general. Both The Nation and the Bangkok Post report that stay-put, arguably unconstitutional, but yellow-shirt supported auditor-general, Jaruvan Maintaka clashed in a very public and unsavory way with her deputy-cum-acting-replacement Pisit Leelawachiropas when she “crashed a meeting he had called with senior agency officials.”

The Nation reports that there were some “40 people, including deputy auditors-general and senior officials from the agency’s offices throughout the country, gathered in the morning at the meeting room of the Auditor-General’s Office to hear Pisit explain the agency’s problems. Soon after the meeting started, Jaruvan entered the room, tapped Pisit on the shoulder and gestured for him to move out of the seat at the head of the table. She then took over his seat as well as his microphone…”.

She is said to have “snatched” the microphone. The Post says Jaruvan “physically fought to grab a chair and a microphone.” It adds that she “slammed files of documents on to the table. Witnesses said she tried to push him from the chair and grabbed a microphone from his hand.”

Jaruvan went on to harangue the assembled persons and “insisted she still had the legal authority to retain her post and noted the Administrative Court did not order her to be suspended from duty pending a ruling on a petition filed by the Ombudsman. While Jaruvan was talking, Pisit and some others left the room. Then the lights went out but she continued speaking with the microphone.” It would seem that Jaruvan is now unstable.

The Bangkok Post used words like “farce” and “fiasco” to describe the meeting and such words adequately describe the situation in the Auditor-General’s Office. Come to think of it, the words are apt descriptions of a government with few policies and a rapidly deteriorating authority and international profile. Perhaps the word “joke” is also appropriate in describing the current government that has always looked like a puppet but now looks like a puppet where the strings are tangled and the puppet masters are incompetent.

Though the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has already received autopsy results of the 89 people killed during the recent political unrest, it has yet to decide if the information can be made public, DSI chief said yesterday.
DSI director general, Tharit Pengdit, said his agency had to first get the results verified by the Office of the Attorney-General, the Metropolitan Police Bureau and the Central Institute of Forensic Medicine.

He also encouraged members of the public as well as Pheu Thai Party who witnessed killings to come forward and testify with the DSI.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday praised new national police chief General Wichean Potephosree for ensuring that there were no untoward incidents during the red-shirt rally on Sunday held to mark the anniversary of the 2006 coup and four months since the crackdown on the red-shirt protest.

The prime minister said he expected Wichean to face tougher tasks in the future.

He also thanked all sides for helping keep order during the rally. “In all, things went smoothly. When a lot of people gather, it is always difficult to handle the situation. But there were no clashes on Sunday, and that is a good thing, so I must thank all sides,” Abhisit said.

The police chief yesterday spent about 20 minutes telling the premier about the red-shirt rally. Wichean admitted that police estimate of 5,000 red-shirt demonstrators was incorrect, when the turnout was more like 10,000 people. He also noted that any large public gatherings without a leader had a good chance to getting out of control, adding that police would improve its intelligence work.

Wichean said a public demonstration act was needed to control such large crowds in the future, though at present the existing Internal Security Act could be imposed to ensure efficient crowd control.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday expressed concerns about prolonged rallies by the red shirts, though agencies in charge of security are keeping an eye out for any suspicious movements. He s

Further updated: Jaruvan to Thailand’s rescue

9 09 2010

The Nation has a revealing story – some  might just say bizarre – about Khunying Jaruvan Maintaka. She’s the one who claims to still be auditor-general despite reaching retirement age and having previously appointed a replacement. She is still refusing to leave the job.

She has now explained why she is holding onto her seat with such grim determination. Her public statement claims Jaruvan has no “personal interest” but is wanting to continue “in order to protect the assets of the land at a time when the country is not peaceful…”.

She adds: “It is worrying that our Thailand is being treated mercilessly by people who have no good intentions towards the country. I intend to maintain the status of the Office of the Auditor-General as an organisation to protect the country’s money and interest. I will remain loyal to the monarchy until my last breath…”. Jaruvan explains that the “post-coup order by the Council for Democratic Reform had called on her to serve as the caretaker until her successor was appointed.”

It is remarkable that Jaruvan has such a view of her own significance in defending the nation and monarchy. One might think it slightly unhinged. However, she is supported by a range of yellow shirts. Her lawyer is Suwat Apaipakdi who is said to be “close to Sondhi Limthongkul, co-leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy…. He has acted also as lawyer for yellow-shirt leaders in many legal cases.”

As in her previous successful bid to hold this office – a saga that goes back to 2001 – she is still arguing that she was “appointed under the Royal command.”

An argument could be made that her position as auditor-general has been not just controversial but illegal from he appointment. But she stays on due to her political usefulness to the miitary junta, palace and other anti-Thaksin Shinawtara forces. That may remain the case until a “reliable” political replacement can be found.

Update 1: With the new bill on the OAG thrown out in parliament, the logic of Jaruvan’s refusal to budge is clearer. She can stay on and on as long as she wants and the powers-that-be agree with her being there. Forget all the nonsense about constitutionality, for the 2006 coupmaker’s order hold sway it seems.

Update 2: Now the courts have supported Jaruvan by nixing an attempt to have a ruling on her status.

Jaruvan just won’t go away

14 08 2010

The Bangkok Post reports on the case of auditor-general Jaruvan Maintaka and her refusal to step down at the Office of the Auditor-General. Jaruvan has been in her position since 2001 and at every point, from her initial appointment, she has been embroiled in controversy. A look at her Wikipedia entry shows that:

  • The chairman of the State Audit Commission who submitted a list of three candidates for the post of auditor-general to the Senate, instead of the SAC’s one choice, was later sentenced by the Criminal Court to 3 years in jail for malfeasance on this case.
  • The Constitutional Court later ruled the selection process that led to Jaruvan’s appointment  was unconstitutional. Confusing things, though, the  court didn’t say she had to step down (as any reasonable person would have).

By this time, Jaruvan was seen as an opponent of then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and when she refused to resign on the basis that she was “royally-appointed” and thus required a “royal dismissal,”she became one of the heroes of the developing People’s Alliance for Democracy and the royalists. She joined with PAD in petitioning the king to use Article 7 of the 1997 Constitution to replace Thaksin as premier. This act confirmed the political nature of her actions.

Jaruwan’s action and the fact that she simply stayed were indicative of a disdain for the law by not just her but by all of her yellow-shirted supporters, including those in the palace. When the SAC nominated a replacement for Jaruvan, which was approved by the senate in May 2010, the king withheld his royal assent from the appointment, effectively backing the illegal retention of the position by Jaruvan.

It was yet another political intervention from the palace that finally, in February 2006, made her appointment “legal.”  The SAC confirmed  Jaruvan as auditor-general after a memo from the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary demanded that the situation be resolved. The SAC concluded that the royal command that appointed Jaruvan was still in effect, despite the Constitution Court’s ruling that her appointment was unconstitutional.

Of course, the military junta kept Jaruvan in office after the 2006 coup. She soon became a leading member of an Assets Scrutiny Committee that was given wide powers to investigate alleged corruption in the Thaksin government. Her interventions were at times bizarre and highly public, but the ASC did the job the junta tasked it with and several cases were progressed. When the Democrat Party-led coalition was shoe-horned into place in 2008, “corruption fighter” Jaruvan suddenly seemed to become disinterested in corruption allegations against the government she’d worked hard to get into place.

Now, she seems to have worn out her welcome and to have become a burden for the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. That she is loopy has never been in contention, but her usefulness as a loopy royalist now seems at an end.

The current issue is that she is now past retirement age, but just keeps coming to the office an “performing” as if she should still be auditor-general, despite an interim replacement having been appointed. Her replacement says it is all “too damaging” now. The Council of State has ruled that she should have stepped down upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 on 5 July, but she just keeps refusing. She gives orders despite having no legal authority.

The Post adds: “Since her arrival in the top job, Khunying Jaruvan has appointed her son Kittiwat as a personal secretary on a salary of 40,000-50,000 baht a month. Khunying Jaruvan is paid about 200,000 baht a month.” It could have added a string of other allegations related to nepotism and corruption that have been made against her, including regarding her very large and new family home.

This is an example of what happens when the only standard used is one that is political – is the person involved a “loyalist” and ally in the fight against Thaksin? By that standard, the current government’s foundations are in a cesspool of “loyalists” that include some who are bizarre – like Jaruvan – some who are remarkably corrupt and dangerous – like Newin Chidchob – and, of course, many who are armed. All of them expect “pay-offs.”

Blaming Thaksin and his minions

23 08 2009

When faced with political problems associated with the sufficiency economy projects, how woudl the Democrat Party reduce the heat? Blame Thaksin of course. And that seems to be the plan.

In the Bangkok Post (23 August 2009: “Thaksin graft flaws echoed in new plan”) it is reported that Auditor-General, Thaksin foe and supporter of the 2006 coup and the military regime Jaruvan Maintaka is on the job.

She says that the Democrat Party government’s suffiiciency economy projects seem to be corrupt, but that this is a “similar pattern of alleged corruption …  in the Thaksin administration’s village development fund.”

Jaruvan doesn’t reveal anything about the Democrat’s scheme that is new, but points to the Thaksin government’s SML scheme that began aalmost a decade ago. Moreover, Jaruvan sees Thaksin acolytes as responsible for the Democrat government’s corruption, alleging that “the conduct of some staff who are closely associated with the old power clique.” The ever vigilent Jaruvan says:  “They used to work on similar schemes. We are collecting information…”.

According to Jaruvan, this siphoning of state budgets goes back  four to five years “as corruption mechanisms were established.” It is the fault of previous regimes!

All of a sudden, Jaruvan “unveiled the findings of the probe into the SML project, which were handed over to the secretary-general to the prime minister in August last year. According to the report, the SML scheme failed to achieve its goals and reap anticipated benefits. The villages did not follow the project’s procedures involving bidding, book-keeping and contract signing.”

PPT has no doubt that there was corruption under previous regimes. In this case – the SML/village fund – the value of the corruption  is said to have “amounted to 16.196 million baht.” If this isn’t mis-reporting, then the amount is remarkably low in a nationwide scheme.

The amounts in the sufficiency economy project are potentially far more, but if official associated with previous governments are blamed, the Democrats may smell sweeter. A neat plan, but can the Democrats and Abhisit deflect the criticisms that seem inevitable?

More on sufficiency projects and corruption (with several updates)

19 08 2009

Several updates below.

PPT readers may recall our earlier post (in Thai here) on corruption in the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects that had been set up by the Democrat Party-led government. Back then we pointed out that there had been a rising tide of media criticism. The story suggested some serious problems for the government and for the Democrat Party especially as Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu,  in charge of the sufficiency office, seemed to also be involved in nepotism with his brother working as a deputy director in the office.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva acknowledged problems but denied everything related to the Democrat Party and blamed everyone else, including trying to pin responsibility on the Thaksin Shinawatra government that was thrown out in the September 2006 coup. The office was not dealing in small change, with the government has allocated 21 billion baht to the office.

Over the past couple of weeks, Abhisit has maintained his denials. Now, however, the Bangkok Post (19 August 2009: “Korbsak quits sufficiency project”) Korbsak has resigned as “chairman of the sufficiency economy community project.”

This is a major problem for Abhisit, whose denials were strong. Abhisit has now had to shamefacedly confirm that the opposition Puea Thai Party’s allegations that the sufficiency economy community projects were tainted with corruption are correct.In fact, the initial allegations were not from Puea Thai, but originated from within the communities meant to benefiting from the projects and Peua Thai took them up.

Korbsak is due to hold a press conference that might be embarrassing for the government.

So how does Abhisit deal with the fallout? It seems that the best way is to bring in a died-in-the-wool royalist and widely acknowledged rural development champion to sort it out. Mechai Viravaidya is suggested as the new chairman for the project office. Abhisit says: “I agree with Mr Korbsak’s decision to let Mr Mechai oversee the project. Some schemes under the project will have to be halted so Mr Mechai can examine and fine-tune them.”

Brilliant idea! Except that Mechai* is already vice chairman of the committee overseeing the Office. So what has he been doing in that capacity so far? As vice chairman, royalist champion and development expert he must also bear responsibility for the rampant corruption in an Office that he has overseen. Sounds like a continuing effort at a cover-up.

*On Mechai see his brief entry at Wikipedia and an authorized biography here. His Population and Community Development Association (PDA) is one of the best-known rural development agencies in Thailand and has had lashings of funds from corporations, international agencies and aid organizations galore. Mechai did much when an appointed minister in 1991-92 to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and action, at a critical time in the development of the disease in Thailand.

It is difficult to be critical of a national and international icon. In 1994 Mechai received a Ramon Magsaysay award for Public Service and in 2007 PDA was awarded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Gates Award. The U.S.’s PBS calls him a “Global Health Champion” and Time lists him as an “Asian Hero.” Perhaps less illustriously, he is identified by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation as one of “The Leaders.”

Part of the reason he is liked so much internationally is because he is a part of Thailand’s elite that feels comfortable with foreigners and is one of the “interpreters” of Thailand for foreigners who promote the royalist view of politics and society. Mechai is also seen as a model for his engagement in business (see his CV), his promotion of social entrepreneurialism, microfinance, corportae social responsibility and other neoliberal ideas through the PDA’s projects, making PDA an NGO that is easy to deal with as it feels more like a corporation than any kind of “radical” organization.

And, Mechai has impeccable connections.

Mechai has been one of Thailand’s “elite” of politicians-cum-ministers, seldom holding his positions through election but by appointment. His election success was in the first elected senate. Apart from that he has been, variously, Deputy Minister of Industry (1985-86) and then Cabinet Spokesman (1986-88, for the always unelected General Prem Tinsulanonda), appointed Senator (1987-91), Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office (1991-92, for the twice appointed Anand Punyarachun), Adviser to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (1997).

Mechai has strong royal connections. His biography says, simply that he “accompanied Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn on several official foreign trips.” It adds that his “wife Putrie now headed the personal affairs division of King Bhumipol’s private secretary’s office.” Putrie is listed elsewhere as Than Phuying Putrie Viravaidya, His Majesty’s Deputy Principal Private Secretary” and was earlier the Manager of the Royal Projects Division. She is one of the most important figures in the palace. The little comment about accompanying the prince is interesting as there have long been rumors that Mechai has been working with the prince on his image.

Mechai is establishment Thailand.

Update: The Nation (20 August 2009: “Corruption probe will test Abhisit’s integrity”) has an editorial, where the headline speaks for itself. Abhisit is potentially in trouble. However, it seems to PPT that by elevating Mechai one step up the ladder and appointing a Democrat parliamentarian to investigate the alleged corruption the damage control-cover-up is continuing.

Further Update:The Bangkok Post (20 August 2009: “Korbsak quits office post”) reports on Korbsak’s resignation as chairman of the Community Sufficiency Economy Project. Korbsak says he resigned to allow “the government a free hand to investigate alleged irregularities.” He says he is also encouraging his younger brother, Praphote, to quit as deputy director of the Sufficiency Economy Office for Community Development, the office responsible for granting funds to community projects. Praphote is now said to have been the one who screened proposed projects before they were submitted for approval by a subcommittee chaired by his big brother.

Korbsak said that there would be “a fair and transparent investigation by police and the Office of the Auditor-General. He called on Auditor-General Khunying Jaruvan Maintaka yesterday to ask her investigate the alleged irregularities.” Jaruvan is not unblemished herself, is certainly partisan and allegations against “a senior official” being investigated. Korbsak also said that a Crime Suppression Division team had been set up to investigate “possible graft or violations of codes of conduct.” He added that “his Democrat Party’s investigations into the alleged corruption at the agency was expected to be concluded in a few days.”

Abhisit believed that Korbsak’s resignation from the board “should allay fears he would interfere with investigations.” But this is an odd way to investigate. Korbsak and the Democrats have established the parameters and the terms while he and his brother were still in place and with vice chairman Mechai replacing him and the projects will continue, with Abhisit saying: “He [Mr Mechai] will propose the structure of the [project screening] committees and he will have full authority…”. However, for the first time Abhisit said, “the matter might be brought before the National Anti-Corruption Commission for investigation.”

This suggests that the political fallout is already significant as there was lobbying in the Democrat Party to get the failed managers and Korbsak’s brother sacked. A Democrat Party source is said to be concerned that the ” alleged irregularities are threatening the party’s chances in next year’s elections of provincial and district councillors in Bangkok,” and added: “Someone must be held responsible for the damage because of a lack of transparency in the scheme.”

Update (21 August): Prapote, deputy director of the Office of Sufficiency Economy for Community Development and Minister Korbsak’s brother, has resigned from his position.

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