Palang Pracharat (PPRP) MP Pareena Kraikupt has been formally appointed to the Standing Committee on Corruption and Misconduct despite being accused of encroaching on a national forest reserve area, prompting criticism from the Thai public.
Yesterday (16 January), an announcement appeared on the Royal Gazette website stating that PPRP MPs Pareena Kraikupt and Sira Jenjakha have been appointed to the Parliament Standing Committee on Corruption and Misconduct in place of two other MPs who resigned from the committee.
The decision to appoint the two MPs was made at a House of Representatives meeting on 6 November 2019 after two former members of the Committee, Thanasit Kowsurat and Payom Phrompetch, resigned.
Pareena has been accused of encroaching on about 1700 rai of national park land in Ratchaburi, where she operates a poultry farm. The issue came to light in August 2019 when she declared net assets of 140 million baht, which included a total of 1706 rai of land and 110 million baht of her annual income which came from her Khao Son poultry farms.
Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a former member of the now-dissolved Thai Raksa Chart Party then petitioned the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to investigate whether she had trespassed on forest reserve land. Subsequent surveys showed that 682 rai of her land had been declared reform land by the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO) and 46 rai was forest reserve land. As for the remaining 1000 rai, her father claimed the family never had that much land, and she later asked the NACC for permission to change her asset declaration to exclude the 1000 rai, claiming there was a misunderstanding.
In December 2019, Pareena returned the 682 rai of land to ALRO to be used for agricultural reform purposes. According to Capt Thammanat Prompow, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, who is at the centre of a scandal himself after an Australian news outlet reported that he once did jail time in Australia for drug trafficking, no criminal action will be taken against Pareena since her family owned the land before its ALRO designation and that she has already shown “good faith” by pledging to return it.
The Royal Forest Department (RFD) has also filed a legal complaint against Pareena for encroaching on 46 rai of protected forest land. The penalties for encroaching on forest land is 4-20 years in prison for plots over 25 rai and 1-10 years for smaller ones.
The Thai public has raised questions whether there were double standards in the authorities’ handling of the accusations against Pareena and whether legal action will be taken against the rich and the powerful. Her appointment to the Standing Committee prompted even more criticisms from the Thai public, many of whom took to the internet to express their opinion and asking how a “corrupt” MP is appointed to the Standing Committee on Corruption.