Anti-corruption office gives military whitewash over royal park graft

After a lengthy probe into the royal monument park corruption scandal, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) concluded no trace of corruption was found in the construction overseen by the Thai army.

On 7 September 2016, Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, the NACC chairman, announced that the NACC investigation committee had found no evidence of corruption in the procurement procedure for the construction of Rajabhakti Park.

The royal theme park in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, 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.

Watcharapol announced that the members of the NACC committee voted 9 to 0 to conclude that there was no evidence to support the corruption allegations.  

“The NACC committee concluded that there was no irregularities in the construction project. From now, [we] will inform the person who filed the complaint to the NACC on the matter about the finding. If there are still doubts, further inquiries are welcome,” said Watcharapol.

Veera Somkwamkid, Secretary General of the People’s Anti-Corruption Network and who filed the park corruption allegations to the NACC, said that he is still waiting to see the committee’s findings in detail.    

The conclusion from the NACC confirmed earlier findings from the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).

The PACC announced in March that there was no evidence to back up allegations that the former army chief and Gen Sirichai Distakul, the current Labour Minister, had engaged in any corrupt practices in the Rajabhakti Park project. Sirichai was the Permanent Secretary of the Defence Ministry during the time when the park was being constructed.

In response to rampant rumours of alleged corruption, the Deputy Defence Minister admitted in November last year that the project was rife with corruption — as many media outlets had reported.

According to Khaosod English, he said that such corruption was 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, Udomdej said he was uncertain whether the money had been returned to the Army. However he believed that the damage was already repaired because the project’s ‘middleman’ had already returned his commission as a ‘donation’.

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.

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