Military summons Pheu Thai spokesman for criticising Army Royal Park graft

The Thai military have summoned a Pheu Thai Party member for a talk after he criticised the military’s Royal Park corruption scandal.

According Matichon OnlineDaily News, and Prachachat Turakij, the Thai military on Wednesday morning, 18 November 2015, summoned Anusorn Iamsa-ard, Acting Deputy Spokesperson of the Pheu Thai Party, for a discussion at the 1st Army Region Division in Bangkok.

At 2:40 pm, Anusorn gave an interview to the media saying that the talk was brief and was not really an ‘attitude adjustment’ session, adding that it was nothing ‘special’ for he is usually summoned for discussions with the military to exchange information and often has to ask the military for permission to travel overseas.

Matichon Online reported that prior to the summons, Anusorn criticised the statement of Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Defence Minister, about the construction of Rajabhakti Park, a royal theme park featuring gigantic monuments of seven prominent past monarchs in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province of central Thailand, which was rife with corruption.  

The project, costing about a billion baht (about 28 million USD) was overseen by Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, the current Deputy Defence Minister and ex-Army chief.

When pressed by the media about the Pheu Thai Party’s request to the government to make a clarification about the park graft, Prawit said earlier that the government has nothing to do with the park because it was constructed by the military and the park budget was derived from donations.

The Pheu Thai Party pointed out that although the project’s budget was from donations, it was approved by the government who later assigned the project to the Royal Thai Army.

Moreover, people who are allegedly involved in the park graft are Army officials. Therefore, they should be held responsible for corruption allegations as the Defence Minister himself is a member of the Office of National Anti-Corruption Commission (ONACC), the Pheu Thai Party stated.  

Rajabhakti Park was recently registered as a Foundation on 16 September 2015, several months after the park was completed.

Last week, the Deputy Defence Minister admitted that the project was rife with corruption as many media outlets reported.

According to Khaosod English, he said that such corruption is common in every sector, adding that the individuals hired by the Army took ‘commissions’ of about 10 per cent from the budget for the park.

When further pressed by the media, Gen Udomdej said that he is uncertain whether the money was returned to the Army, but said that the damage is already mended because the ‘middleman’ on the project had already returned the commission as a ‘donation’.

“I don’t really know the details. But I can certainly explain all of it. It’s about work by different committees. The financial work was handled by the treasury, and the head of army treasury department can certainly explain it,” Khaosod English quoted the Deputy Defence Minister as saying.

On Wednesday, 11 November 2015, Pol Maj Gen Piyapan Pingmuang, Deputy Spokesperson of the Royal Thai Police, told the media that the police have not yet summoned Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, the current Deputy Defence Minister and former Army Commander-in-chief, for interrogation on corruption in the construction of Rajabhakti Park.

The Police Deputy Spokesperson said that no one has filed a formal complaint about the case so far and the police cannot proceed to investigate it by themselves, before adding that the Anti-Money Laundering Office has already established a committee to handle the case.

Sriracha Wongsarayangkun, Chairperson of the Ombudsman’s Office, on Wednesday 18 November 2015, also took a similar stance to the police, saying that if no one files complaints about the park graft, the agency cannot start an investigation.

He added that if the Office of National Anti-Corruption Commission (ONACC) has already taken up the case, the Ombudsman’s Office will not look into the park graft allegations.

Up to now, however, there has been no action from ONACC on the matter.

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