Hua Hin Municipality asked to pay maintenance costs of military’s royal theme park

Military officers managing Rajabhakti Park, the military’s royal theme park plagued with allegations of corruption, have asked Hua Hin Municipality to pay for the maintenance of the park.

Jirawat Prammanee, Deputy City Clerk of Hua Hin Municipality in the central province of Prachuap Khiri Khan, told the media that the Executive Committee of Rajabhakti Park has asked Hua Hin Municipality to pay 120,000 baht (about 3,400 USD) per month for the maintenance costs of the park, Posttoday reported.

The request was made after a meeting on Monday of the park’s Executive Committee, most of whom are high-ranking army officers.

Jirawat told the media that he has no authority to decide on the request. It will be dealt with by Hua Hin Mayor Nopporn Wutthikul.

Rajabhakti Park, a royal theme park in Prachuap Khiri Khan featuring gigantic monuments of seven prominent past monarchs, was constructed by the Royal Thai Army. The project, costing about a billion baht (about 28 million USD), was initiated and overseen by Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, former chief of the Royal Thai Army and current Deputy Defence Minister.

After rumours of alleged corruption surrounding its construction spread like wildfire, the Deputy Defence Minister in November last year 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 of the budget. 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 was already repaired because the ‘middleman’ on the project had already returned his commission as a ‘donation’.

Despite the fact that the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission later discovered that 63 million baht of state funds were used in the construction of the park, contradicting claims by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Defence Minister and Deputy junta head that all the money used came from donations, a committee set up by the military to investigate the corruption scandal concluded that the project was clear of corruption.

In December 2015, when leading pro-democracy activists organised a field trip to the park to investigate, they were arrested by the authorities and later charged with defying the junta’s ban on gatherings of 5 of more people.

The corruption scandal surrounding the military’s royal theme park slowly died down after it was renamed as the Rajabhakti Pak Foundation under the Royal Patronage of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn by the Interior Ministry in early 2016.