Call for Probe Into Pricey, Broken Bomb Detectors

Former MP Watchara Petchthong points at the one working bomb detector today at Parliament House. Two years after they were purchased - and never turned on - the units were activated Tuesday morning in response to security concerns following Monday's bomb attack. Of the four machines, on which 64 million baht were spent, only one turned on.

BANGKOK — A former lawmaker petitioned the parliament today to investigate why only one of its four bomb detectors works, despite spending 64 million baht on them.

Three of the four machines, which had been in storage since their purchase two years ago, failed to work when called into action the morning after Monday’s bomb attack, Former MP Watchara Petchthong of the Democrat Party said.

“Only one scanner worked, out of the four that were bought,” Watchara said as he filed his letter of complaint to the parliament today. “The purchases of those machines were really expensive. They aren’t worth the price.”

Officials rushed the machine, made by UK-based Smiths Detection, into service Tuesday morning, placing them around entrances to the parliament building to increase security in response to the deadly downtown bombing which killed at least 20 people.

A technician in charge of the three malfunctioning bomb detectors told reporters at the time there was an “electrical failure” and no backup power source for the devices.

Calls to a media contact for Smiths Detection were not immediately returned.

The machines had never been turned on since they were bought in 2013, he added.

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Smiths Detection's Eqo airport bomb detector. Photo: Smiths Detection

 

The machines appears to be a Smiths Detection’s “Eqo” device. Although the model number According to Bloomberg Business, each of the device costs $170,000.

It was introduced in 2009 as an airport security device to “detect metal, ceramics, liquids, and plastics hidden underneath people's clothing,” according to a 2010 report from Bloomberg Business News, which at the time listed the per unit price as $170,000, or 5.44 million baht at the rate of exchange at the time.

That would be about one-third what Thailand paid but may not have included installation, training or other services.

Speaking at today’s news conference, Watchara also urged the National Legislative Assembly to investigate the ‘hi-tech’ clocks at the parliament building, which were bought at the price of 15 million baht. The clocks stopped working yesterday without any explanation.

Since the military seized power from an elected government in May 2014, the National Legislative Assembly has been serving as an interim parliament for Thailand. All of the assembly’s members are handpicked by the ruling military junta.

He said he would also file a separate complaint to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

 

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