Thai army says it's not involved in park corruption case

AP News
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Posted: Nov 20, 2015 9:31 AM
Thai army says it's not involved in park corruption case

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's military said Friday that an internal investigation has cleared senior officers of corruption in connection with the financing of a public park on army property featuring spectacular giant statutes of kings.

Army commander Gen. Theerachai Nakvanich told a news conference that no member of the military was involved in corruption connected to Rajabhakti Park, which opened in September near the seaside town of Hua Hin.

Two senior officers have been accused of wrongdoing, including kickbacks and the diversion of funds contributed to the project, which has been described as costing 1 billion baht ($28 million).

The case has become a major scandal in Thailand, partly because the military junta that has run the country since staging a coup last year had vowed to reform the country's political system to stamp out corruption, which it blames on politicians.

The leaking of information casting suspicion about an army-led project is extremely rare, and has led to speculation that it may be linked to rifts within the junta.

It comes shortly after the high-profile deaths in military custody of at least two people accused of involvement with a gang that allegedly invoked the royal palace for their own personal benefit. The army announced that one had killed himself and the other died of natural causes, but their bodies were hurriedly cremated, raising suspicions about their deaths.

Last week, Gen. Udomdej Sitabutr, head of the foundation overseeing the park and Theerachai's predecessor as army commander, said a middleman had accepted commissions. He said, however, that the money had been recovered.

Theerachai said the army's probe covered only allegations of wrongdoing by its personnel. He suggested that there was no need for the National Anti-Corruption Commission or the Comptroller General's Office to investigate the military's role.