EARTH Thailand

Calls grow to delay Klong Dan payout

Bangkok Post 20 November 2015| Apinya Wipatayotin

Civil society groups yesterday urged the government to hold off paying 9.8 billion baht to the NVPSKG consortium until the Supreme Court finishes investigating the 19 officials involved in the graft-plagued Klong Dan wastewater-treatment plant project.

Penchome Sae-Tang, director of Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand (Earth), yesterday said she opposed the cabinet resolution on Tuesday that approved the payout in the long-running legal dispute.  It is to be made in three payments in both baht and US dollars starting on Saturday, with a 3.2 billion baht and $21.7 million (778 million baht) transfer.

"We have high hopes the government will win the case [in the Supreme Court]. Then, the government does not have to pay a single baht to the consortium," said Ms Penchome. "If they start paying before the final ruling is out, those responsible for making the payment could be charged with dereliction of duty and sued for causing damages to the state."

The Supreme Court ruling will trump that of any other court, including the Supreme Administrative Court which ordered the government to pay the construction company of the Klong Dan water treatment project in Samut Prakan, according to Ms Penchome.

Last year the Supreme Administrative Court ordered the Department of Pollution Control to pay around 9 billion baht plus interest to the consortium, as most of the construction work for the Klong Dan water treatment project was already complete. The department negotiated to waive interest charges, and the consortium agreed.

Dawan Chantarahassadi, a local activist who opposed the Klong Dan wastewater treatment project, said she objected to the government compensating the consortium.

"Local residents living near the Klong Dan wastewater treatment project are ready to stand up and fight again if the government decides to invest more money to kickstart the plant," she said.
A study by the Wastewater Management Authority found that if the abandoned wastewater treatment site is repaired, it will not bring any benefits to the community, she said.  

"Experts unanimously agree that it is not worth investing in the site, from either an environmental or economic perspective," Ms Dawan said.

The Wastewater Management Authority is now seeking a 280-million baht budget to commission a study on the best options for the wastewater treatment site.  Meanwhile, former Democrat MP for Phitsanulok Warong Detkijwikrom yesterday said the Yingluck Shinawatra administration had cited the liability law to pursue financial compensation from the graft suspects embroiled in the Khlong Dan waste water scandal.