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‘Solid evidence’ officials involved: minister

Posted by Nuttapon_S On March - 21 - 2013 1 COMMENT

Sermsak balks at DSI call for all results to be invalidated

Education officials found to have facilitated cheating in the assistant-teacher recruitment exams will face both disciplinary and criminal action, Deputy Education Minister Sermsak Pongpanich said yesterday.

Speaking at a press conference, Sermsak said the scam required the participation of many people, including provincial and central agency officials.

“There is solid evidence,” he said, with Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Tarit Pengdith by his side.

Sermsak, however, remained reluctant to embrace the DSI’s recommendation that the Education Ministry invalidate the results of the exams, saying that not all test-takers were involved.

The deputy education minister said he would present information on the cheating scandal to the Teacher Civil Service and Educational Personnel Commission, which will convene a meeting tomorrow to decide whether to invalidate the exams.

Sermsak has asked the DSI to investigate the alleged cheating. Of 9,249 applicants for assistant-teacher positions, 486 had unusually high scores. There were 2,161 vacancies.

According to Sermsak, preliminary probes by the Education Ministry and the DSI found solid evidence of cheating.

Tarit said evidence of cheating had been found in the Office of Basic Education Commission (Obec) Udon Thani Office Area 3, Obec Yasothon Office Area 1, Obec Nakhon Ratchasima Office Area 2 and Obec Khon Kaen Office Area 3.

Tarit said that in some cases, applicants had hired others to sit the exams on their behalf, and in other cases the cheating applicants had received correct answers for exam questions in advance.

“Some cheaters memorised the answers. Others smuggled communications devices into the exam rooms,” he added.

Tarit said the cheating scheme had clearly been planned from the outset of the project to recruit new assistant teachers.

“Normally, Obec’s local offices are in charge of designing exam questions. But this time, Obec was in charge,” he said.

Officials from Obec’s local offices are usually assigned to collect exam papers, but this time, Thailand Post was hired to make the deliveries.

Tarit added that the cheating exam-takers received coaching on how to cheat a few days before the recruitment exams took place.

The DSI board will be asked to take up the scam as a special case at its meeting on March 27.

“We now have clear targets for further investigation,” Tarit said.

Sermsak said exam questions and answers had been leaked in all subjects featured in the recruitment exams.

“Some insiders were clearly involved because the cheaters seem to know in which areas they should sit for exams,” he said.

Sukhumbhand appears at DSI on donation charge

Posted by Nuttapon_S On March - 14 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS
BANGKOK, March 14 – Bangkok governor-elect Sukhumbhand Paribatra today officially acknowledged an allegation that he had breached the law concerning his financial contributions to the Democrat Party.
He appeared at the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to take notice of the charge that he violated the Political Party Act which requires that donations of Bt20,000 or more to a political party must be made in the form of a money order or a crossed cheque, and a violator is subject to a maximum three-year jail term or a fine to at least triple the donation.
Mr Sukhumbhand had donated to the Democrat Party by having the House of Representatives make a deduction from  his official salary to the party’s account. He said he had informed the Election Commission about the money transfer and received no objection.
“This is another occasion that the DSI is acting without clarity and is overacting. The authority belongs to the EC,” he said.
He refused to comment on a pending decision by the central Election Commission to officially endorse him as Bangkok’s new governor, saying he respected its decision.
The central EC has yet to decide on Mr Sukhumbhand’s fate given two public complaints against him but referring to Democrat MP Sirichoke Sopha and media academic Seree Wongmontha who threw their support to him during the Bangkok election campaign.  (MCOT online news)

Rosana queries govt power alert

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 23 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Dogged social activist Rosana Tositrakul waves a red flag to the warning of electricity cuts – Former government spokesman Panitan feels the heat from DSI probe into the 2010 violence and is playing it cagey – Abandoned police station contract may be Tarit’s ‘house of cards’

The Energy Ministry’s warning of a possible power shortage in the next couple of months may have shaken most, but not energy activist and senator Rosana Tositrakul.

In response to the alert from the energy minister, the cabinet immediately issued orders for state-run agencies to cut their power consumption as electricity generation in the country depends substantially on gas.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had told cabinet ministers to forgo their jackets in favour of lighter clothing to reduce the demand for air-conditioning.

Mr Yingluck and some cabinet ministers were photographed walking to their meeting at Government House this week in attire better suited to hot weather.

However, Ms Rosana thinks the warning may not make much sense.

She said some people are prepared to pay for the cost of energy even if it becomes more expensive.

She noted that energy giant PTT is one of the country’s most profitable public companies, but it is under the control of certain vested political interests.

The senator reiterated that it was grossly unfair to expect consumers to pay for expensive energy while Thailand has reserves of natural gas and oil.

She said it was her dream that PTT could be nationalised so the agency would refocus on its priorities and work more for the public interest.

Ms Rosana has kept her supporters and the general public updated on the energy debate through her Facebook account, press conferences, seminars and lectures at forums and universities.

However, she said, defending her cause for the people’s right to fairer and cheaper energy and her efforts to achieve that have gone almost unaided by the mainstream media which rarely communicates her message to the masses.

The mainstream media doesn’t report her information and activities that expose the agency’s attempts to take advantage of the people, she said.

Ms Rosana urged the media to pay closer attention to her because when her stories make the news, there is bound to be a response and feedback which draws advertising.

Ms Rosana raised the possibility that the government’s power shortage warning might be a way of misleading people into thinking the country needs more power plants to increase energy security.

She urged the government to make serious efforts to invest in the production of renewable energy.

Though getting no support from the mainstream media, Ms Rosana said she would continue with her campaign.

She is building up an alliance of small support groups which she expects will combine their actions to help highlight the energy-awareness campaign.

One day, the senator said, the majority of the population will realise that they should not be paying so much for energy.

Previous social campaigns she contributed to had proved successful, she said. This included the fight to expose a medicine and medical supply scandal that sent a former minister to jail and the successful blocking of the privatisation of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.

Fall-out feared in governor poll

The Democrat Party and its leaders may be experiencing a political predicament but they can count on the support of one sympathiser who had his pulse on security affairs in the previous government.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, a security expert and widely known Chulalongkorn University political scientist, has been monitoring the competitiveness of the candidates over the final hurdle heading into the March 3 Bangkok governor race.

Mr Panitan, 52, spokesman for the previous government, is worried that if Democrat candidate, Sukhumbhand Paribatra loses to Pheu Thai rival Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen, then there will be dire implications for Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

If MR Sukhumbhand loses by a wide margin, there might be manoeuvring in the opposition party to oust Mr Abhisit as leader.

Mr Abhisit reportedly backed MR Sukhumbhand’s candidacy amidst criticism by some party heavyweights that the previous governor offers nothing new to excite voters.

But Mr Panitan’s concern for the fate of Mr Abhisit and of his other former boss Suthep Thaugsuban, who is also a Democrat MP and a deputy premier in the previous administration, does not end there.

As top figures in the previous government, Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep have been implicated by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in the deaths of red

[-shirt protesters during the clashes with security forces in 2010.

Mr Panitan has been frustrated at times since he was summoned by the DSI in September to testify over the bloody street violence during the Abhisit government.

He was closely associated with the last government and that is something he cannot easily distance himself from.

At the same time, the academic has tried to make sure his comments on hot-button political issues of the day are well-understood and reported in the correct context.

This is to prevent his words being twisted to attack the current government or his former boss or the military figures linked to the political violence.

Mr Panitan has stood by Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep, insisting all along that the Democrat-led government had no intention of harming red-shirt protesters during the fatal clashes.

The government of the day was merely trying to restore peace. The Abhisit administration had followed proper procedures in dealing with the 2010 red-shirt protests.

Both the DSI chief Tarit Pengdith and Mr Panitan were members of the now-dissolved Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES).

Democrat supporters understand that Mr Panitan is disappointed that the DSI under the directorship of Mr Tarit is turning on Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep.

Mr Panitan feels it is unprecedented for the two top policymakers, including the former prime minister, to be charged under the circumstances.

Mr Panitan was ordained as a monk after the political unrest subsided. The monkhood precedes a royally sponsored wedding for the academic, expected in May.

DSI boss plays a knife-edge game

Department of Special Investigation chief Tarit Pengdith may have found himself in a situation where he cannot let go of the tiger’s tail.

Once again, he has been decried by critics after spending less than half an hour considering a complaint filed against deputy national police chief Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen who is alleged to have been involved in the controversial police stations construction project under the aegis of the Royal Thai Police Office.

Mr Tarit has come in for a barrage of criticism from anti-government elements who claim he has leant too close to the powers-that-be.

He also faces accusations of having switched sides too quickly when power changed hands at the last general election.

Mr Tarit insists, however, that he is doing his job as a civil servant and that he answers to policies, not the policy makers.

In a recent incident, Mr Tarit dismayed the public by spending less than half an hour considering a complaint filed against Pol Gen Pongsapat in connection with the controversial multi-billion-baht project to construct new police stations and buildings and police flats nationwide, which the contractor has abandoned.

Emerging from a short meeting, Mr Tarit dismissed suggestions that Pol Gen Pongsapat should face a probe over his involvement in the corruption-smeared project.

Pol Gen Pongsapat chaired the committee drafting the terms of reference for the project when he was assistant national police chief.

Not only has Mr Tarit’s reaction to the complaint raised many eyebrows, but it also has underlined critics’ claims that the DSI chief was ready to do whatever it took to please the politicians in power, according to his opponents.

In the meantime, the DSI’s media relations team has taken special care with the issue and is being very accommodating to reporters covering DSI stories.

A political source says it is a subject of some discourse as to what makes Mr Tarit confident that his efforts to persecute politicians will not backfire on him at a later date.

The answer may lie in his ambition to enter politics in the future and wear a political hat in order to provide the best shield possible against any fallout over his actions today.

Many think Mr Tarit, 55, may contemplate taking early retirement to pursue a political career.

A source close to him says that for sometime he has been consulting fortune tellers in the North who have assured him that he would definitely become successful in politics.

The DSI chief himself has taken a serious interest in astrology and attends astrology classes during his free time.

The main purpose of this, so it is speculated, is to find the most propitious path for the future.

Only time will tell if astrologers are right about Mr Tarit’s future in politics.

Police station probe finds no graft

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 15 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

DSI to grill Wichean over sole-contractor approval

The Royal Thai Police panel probing allegations of fraud in the construction of police stations across the country said Thursday its initial investigation had found no evidence of corruption.

Pol Gen Jate Mokolhatthee, who chairs the committee, said the panel has yet to dig up any proof of fraud in the 5.8-billion-baht project involving the construction of 396 police stations.

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) is looking into the corruption allegations as well, and is treating it as a special case.

Pol Gen Jate said his committee would ask the DSI to share the evidence that led the agency to suspect that the project was fraudulent. “With the evidence they have, the DSI might be able to see irregularities which we police do not see,” he said.

The committee had looked into the drafting of the terms of reference for the project and the bidding for the contract, and found that every step was in accordance with the law, he said.

The winning bidder was proven to be well-qualified, said Pol Gen Jate.

However, he said the results of the committee’s preliminary probe were based on the inspection of project documents only, and no witnesses had been questioned yet.

The failure of PCC Development and Construction Co, the sole contractor in the project, to complete the construction in time should be regarded as a civil case, not a criminal matter, he said.

The Royal Thai Police will consider suing the contractor for its failure to comply with the construction contract, he said.

Pol Gen Jate said his committee is required to wrap up its investigation and forward the results to the national police chief before March 14, the day the contract granted to PCC expires.

The DSI will question former national police chief Pol Gen Wichean Potephosree Friday about his role in approving the police station project, Thanin Prempree, deputy director of the Bureau of Special Crime 2 of the DSI, said.

Pol Gen Wichean, who is now a permanent-secretary for transport, was police chief when the Royal Thai Police asked then-deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban to sign a contract to hire PCC as the sole contractor, Mr Thanin said. He said Pol Gen Wichean had contacted the DSI to inform them he was ready to meet at 9.30am Friday.

Mr Thanin said the DSI had a clearer picture about the former national police chiefs’ roles in the project after questioning former national police chief Pol Gen Prateep Tanprasert and Pol Maj Gen Puwadol Wuthakanok.

Pol Maj Gen Puwadol, who is now deputy commissioner of the Office of Information and Communication Technology, was chief of the quartermaster and ordnance division during Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwon’s tenure as national police chief. He testified to the DSI on behalf of Pol Gen Patcharawat.

“We now know who was responsible for what, and why the bidding method was changed from nine bids to a single bid,” Mr Thanin said.