Settle Klong Dan case

The corruption-plagued Klong Dan waste water treatment project made news headlines this week. Seven officials, including former natural resources and environment minister Prapat Panyachatraksa, petitioned the Central Administrative Court asking for a review of the high-profile graft case.

The seven plaintiffs who were responsible for the project are being investigated for alleged negligence causing damage to the state -- a charge which, if substantiated, will make them held collectively accountable for the 10 billion baht in compensation to the project contractor, NVPSKG consortium, as ruled by the Supreme Administrative Court and the arbitration panel.

Mr Prapat said on Tuesday their petition for the review of the graft case would benefit the state in a way that it will not have to pay the 10 billion baht so-called "stupid" fee to the project contractor. He said the proposed review of the case would help absolve him and his six colleagues of the charge against them.

The seven petitioners claimed they have "new evidence" about the graft case which, they said, was overlooked by the arbitration panel, the Central Administrative Court and the Supreme Administrative Court which simultaneously ruled in favour of the NVPSKG consortium by ordering the Pollution Control Department to pay the latter 10 billion baht.

The "new evidence" claimed by the group includes the verdict of the Dusit District Court in November 2009 which faulted the consortium for deliberately withholding a crucial fact from the Pollution Control Department about the pullout of the project by UK-based Northwest Water International which specialises in waste water treatment. The court also ruled there was corruption in the acquisition of 1,800 rai of land in tambon Klong Dan, Samut Prakan's Bang Bo district, as the new site of the waste water treatment facility.

Despite the Dusit District Court's guilty verdict, the group claimed that this crucial fact was not taken into consideration of the arbitration panel when it ruled two years afterward to award the project contractor 10 billion baht in compensation. The Central Administrative Court eventually made its ruling in the same manner and it was upheld by the Supreme Administrative Court. The Prayut Chan-o-cha administration made the first batch of payments, four billion baht, to the contractor while villagers and environmentalists call for payment delay until the court issues a final verdict and they have their point.

Environmentalists have branded the Klong Dan project a "classic case of policy corruption" for a valid reason. The entire project was given a complete makeover by those responsible, especially the powers-that-be at the time, for one single purpose -- to rob the state in order to enrich themselves.

The original project design called for two treatment facilities on the western and eastern sides of the Chao Phraya River at Phra Samut Chedi and Bangpu Mai districts respectively. Industrial discharges were to be channelled through surface pipelines to the treatment plants and the treated water was supposed to be released into khlongs.

The changed design called for one treatment facility at Klong Dan which is 20km from Bangpu Mai. As such, 1,800 rai of land in Klong Dan was acquired at highly inflated prices as the project site and industrial discharges from factories were to be channelled through an underground pipeline system. As a result, the cost of the pipeline system alone amounted to 14 billion baht compared with about three billion baht for the cost of the treatment plant. Former deputy interior minister Vatana Asavahame and several other former officials were found guilty of corruption and given jail terms.

It is our hope the court accepts the petition and reviews the case which has yielded great damage to the country.

Source URL: Bangkok Post