Media sues Thai army over Rajabhakti park

Thaipublica, a news agency known for its investigations into corruption, has sued the Thai army over alleged irregularities in the construction of Rajabhakti Park.

On 12 September 2016, the Administrative Court accepted a lawsuit filed by Thaipublica against the Royal Thai Army (RTA), Thaipublica reported.

The news agency asked the court to demand that the RTA disclose information about the base price and other procedures related to the construction of gigantic monuments commemorating seven past monarchs being featured in the royal theme park in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province.

If the base price cannot be revealed, the RTA should publicly explain why such information cannot be disclosed, as assurance that both the allocated public budget and donations to the project were used accountably.

On 14 September, Thaipublica also submitted an appeal request to the Office of the Official Information Commission (OIC) to obtain information about the sub-contractors of the park, as well as the findings of a committee set up by the Thai army to probe the park corruption allegations.

The news agency submitted the request for such information in December 2015, making use of the Official Information Act. However, in August 2016, the Information Department of the Ministry of Defence refused to disclose the information.

While the corruption scandal has surrounded the park since 2015, the Royal Thai Army and the Defence Ministry still have not clarified the base price of Rajabhakti Park’s construction and information about its sub-contractors.

Rumours have spread that some 20 million baht (about 573,600 USD) was taken from the park’s budget in the form of ‘commissions’. However, the Office of the Auditor General of Thailand has stated the 20 million baht was used to cover the cost of advisors to the park construction project.

The Rajabhakti Park construction 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 a lengthy probe into the park corruption scandal, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) concluded on 7 September 2016 that no trace of corruption was found in the construction overseen by the Thai army.

But the NACC’s ruling contradicts the statement of the Deputy Defence Minister who admitted in November last year that the project was rife with corruption — as many media outlets have reported.