BANGKOK — An investigation into accusations of cronyism within the ranks of the ruling junta was suspended along with other cases due to a legal technicality, the National Anti-Corruption Commission, or NACC, said Monday.
In the latest setback to Thailand’s corruption watchdog effort, all inquiries, including that over a construction company run by junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha’s nephew, can not move forward until officials implement the changes in recent amendments to anti-graft laws, according to NACC Secretary-General Sansern Poljiak.
“I insist that we have not halted only the fact-finding in the case of Gen. Preecha’s son,” Sansern told reporters Monday, referring to Prayuth’s brother, Preecha Chan-ocha. “But we halted all cases. It’s the same for every case that we have to slow down for only two months so we can fix internal regulations and make them comply with the bigger laws.”
He added, “But our works are not being halted. Our officials are still working as usual.”
The amendment, which was passed on Dec. 30, introduced some changes to the NACC’s workings, such as requiring more bureaucrats to declare their assets and redelegating investigation duties among its subcommissions.
Sansern said the changes should be worked out within next week.
“It should be over by next week, then the fact-finding will continue,” he said.
Prayuth’s nephew, Pathompol Chan-ocha, is under investigation for his construction company, which was awarded nearly 200 million baht in army contracts since December 2014, despite its record of not having any other major projects before sealing deals with the military.
Pathompol’s father, Gen. Preecha Chan-ocha, also commanded the army region where the company got its contracts, leading critics to levy charges of nepotism on the junta. Leaders of the junta have maintained that there was no corruption or favoritism involved in awarding those contracts.
Srisuwan Junya, a transparency activist whose complaint to the commission prompted the investigation into the scandal, said he could only hope the corruption watchdog would do the right thing.
“I’m giving my support to the NACC,” Srisuwan said by telephone Tuesday. “I feel like the NACC has gone quiet. The public is counting on the NACC to get serious with the big guys … if they do, it would be a warning to lesser bureaucrats, too.”
Srisuwan said the NACC never updated him on the complaint against Pathompol, or any other of the numerous cases he had filed, for that matter.
“I’m going to be optimistic here and think they want to focus on their role as investigators,” the activist said.
The NACC is known for its lengthy effort in processing complaints from the public and a lack of high-profile successes. A review by Khaosod English of thousands of cases taken up by the NACC found only 105 led to successful court convictions.