Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has ordered the removal of 45 officials and local administrators under investigation for corruption, including the country’s Tourism and Sport Ministry permanent secretary and the Physical Education Department Director-General. Those being investigated are understood to have purchased sports and fitness equipment at artificially high prices using state funds. Thailand’s state broadcasting agency Thai PBS published the order detailing the ministers’ removal on its website, which was reportedly issued under Order 16/2015 by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) – the junta ruling Thaliand following the 2014 coup d’etat.
Those under investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the Office of the Auditor-General and the government sector’s anti-corruption committee include Tourism and Sport Ministry Permanent Secretary Suwat Sitthilor and the Physical Education Department Director-General Pattana Chartkritbovorn as well as a number of other high-ranking government officials and civil servants. The national broadsheet newspaper, The Nation, reported that the Prime Minister had used his powers under Article 44 of the 2014 interim constitution of Thailand to suspend the officials from their positions. Article 44 empowers the NCPO leader to issue any order ‘for the sake of the reforms in any field, the promotion of unity and solidarity amongst the people of the nation, or the prevention, abatement or suppression of any act detrimental to national order or security, royal throne, national economy or public administration, whether the act occurs inside or outside the Kingdom [of Thailand]’.
The Nation said that a source at the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission had informed the paper that the ministries containing those officials under investigation had been told to complete their investigations as quickly as possible and if found guilty that the ministries were to punish them. The paper reported that civil servants in the Ministry of Tourism and Sport were being probed for their alleged involvement in the Ministry’s purchase of fitness equipment and other sports-related equipment at unusually high prices – some reportedly at 10 times the market price.
Earlier today The Nation revealed further details regarding the accusations of corruption against four top officials at the Ministry for Tourism and Sport; a source told the paper that those accused of corruption had been suspected of setting artificially high prices for procuring equipment and tools for the Ministry’s offices across the country. NCPO reportedly claim that the Ministry for Tourism and Sport marked up contracts worth just over €8 million at market prices to €45.5 million, while the Physical Education Department had quoted prices of €40 million, up from €13.3 million. Their losses are reported to total over €85.5 million.
Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, the Minister of Tourism and Sports, reportedly issued a statement on Sunday that the Ministry had appointed an acting Permanent Secretary and acting Director-General of the Tourism and Physical Education departments respectively. The Ministry of Tourism and Sport and the Ministry’s permanent secretary’s office have been contacted for comment.
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