Thailand: Sacked parliament officials deny wrongdoing, will appeal

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Two high-level parliament officials sacked by National Legislative Assembly president Pornpetch Wichitcholachai say they will appeal against their dismissal to the Parliament Service Commission.

Mr Pornpetch on July 8 signed an order dismissing Khunawut Tantrakul from the position of deputy secretary-general of the House of Representatives and Somchart Thammasiri as legal adviser to the Parliament Secretariate.

The dismissal order accused Mr Khunawut  of a serious breach of discipline and neglect of duty by failing to properly perform his duty as chairman of a committee for soil management in the construction of the new parliament building, causing severe damage.

Mr Somchart, in his capacity of chairman of the Parliament Club, was accused of inappropriately approving a 3.4 million baht loan for the Parliament Secretariate for a project to produce amulets for sale.

Both Mr Khunawut and Mr Somchart signed an acknowledgement of the dismissal order on Monday, but said they would appeal to the Parliament Service Commission, which is chaired by Mr Pornpetch, within 30 days as allowed by parliament regulations.

A large number of officials at the Parliament Secretariate gave them flowers in a show of sympathy.

Mr Khunawut said he had been accused of neglect of duty in calling the 8th and 9th meetings of the soil management committee four months apart, affecting the new parliament's construction plan.

He said he had explained to a fact-finding committee that at the 8th meeting several companies involved - the project consultant, the company handling construction supervision and the company contracted to carry out the work - asked the committee to halt the removal of soil from the construction site for  four to five months, saying they wanted to use the soil to support the building structure.

This was why the interval between the 8th and 9th meetings was as long as four months.

Mr Khunawut said the soil management committee had nothing to do with the sale of soil, and acted only  as a coordinator.

He said the investigation report on the delay in the construction of the new parliament did not mention the inability of the textile community, the Bangkok Metropolian Administration library, the Defence Ministry's Military Industry Department and Yothinburana School to hand over land required for the work on schedule.

Mr Khunawut said he could not accept the investigation report, which found him in the wrong, because he was not corrupt.

If the Parliament Service Commission did not give him justice, he would turn to the Administrative Court.

Mr Somchart, for his part,  said that in fact the amulets project was approved by the Parliament Club committee.  He only signed the approval as chairman of the committee.

After receiving the loan, the Parliament Secretariat had repaid the money gradually because it took time to sell the amulets.  Proceeds from the amulet sale were to be used for welfare of parliament officials, Mr Somchart said.

Like Mr Khunawut, Mr Somchart said the investigation report which found him in the wrong, was not acceptable to him. The investigating committee did not invite his witnesses, including Jare Pruangpan, a former secretary-general of the House of Representatives, to testify.

He also questioned why the investigation was completed so quickly, unlike investigations into alleged corruption in several projects that had not been completed even after two years.  These projects included the renovation of a budget meeting room and of the marble platform around King Rama VII's statue.