Bangkok governor resigns over firetruck scandal

The governor of Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, has resigned amid a US$190 million corruption case. The nation’s anti-corruption commission found Apirak Kosayodhin had a case to answer over irregularities in the purchase of hundreds of fire trucks and boats. While resigning, the governor continues to protest his innocence.

Talent: Nataphol Teepsuwan, general manager of the Thailand’s Democrat Party; Dr Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, constitutional law expert at Thammasat University.

ADAM CONNORS: Bangkok governor and Democratic Party leader Apirak Kosayodhin resigned yesterday, following the powerful National Anti-Corruption Commission’s decision to make him answerable to a seemingly rushed and very expensive purchase. A decision in 2004 by the former Bangkok governor and now disgraced prime minister Samak Sundaravej to buy 315 fire trucks and 30 fire boats from an Austrian firm for US$190 million was signed off by Mr Apirak shortly after becoming the new governor. Four years later Thailand’s corruption watchdog ruled that Mr Apirak signed the agreement against cabinet resolutions and that it was a reckless action. With the accusation constantly dogging the unrepentant governor he resigned. Nataphol Teepsuwan is the general manager of the Democrat Party.

NATAPHOL TEEPSUWAN: Basically he informed the public that he was resigning effective on the 19th of November after the ceremony for the King’s sister. The reason of his resignation, because of the court’s indication that he will be further investigated into this fire-truck scandal. You know you feel confident that he would be acquitted of all charges because he feels very strongly that he didn’t do anything wrong. He views it as a proper step for new politics in Thailand, a new movement of politics in Thailand, that anybody who may have been accused of doing something should take the responsibility of stepping down until the investigation is complete.

ADAM CONNORS: This problem, the sale of the fire trucks, was something acquired from the former governor. When did the governor actually find out about this?

NATAPHOL TEEPSUWAN: When he came into his position, the MOU was already signed so basically he has to review the contract and ask legal experts about what should be done. Unfortunately, the courts found he didn’t properly do things that was supposed to be done by the governor.

ADAM CONNORS: It is well known that he knew there was something wrong with the purchase. How did the party feel about having this horrible contract hanging over their heads?

NATAPHOL TEEPSUWAN: I think it’s part of the process – when you become governor obviously there are many contracts that were signed or agreed upon from a previous administration. It is unfortunately the situation that one of those contracts has flaws.

ADAM CONNORS: Dr Prinya Thaewanarumitkul is a constitutional law expert at Thammasat University. He believes that by resigning, Mr Apirak did the right thing.

DR PRINYA THAEWANARUMITKUL: According to the National Anti-Corruption Commission law, Mr Apirak doesn’t need to resign, he only has to stop work as governor of Bangkok. I think this decision is moral. In my opinion his decision is good politically.

ADAM CONNORS: Do you think the people know that he was not responsible for the original signing of the agreement and so they would understand that he just wants to get out of the way?

DR PRINYA THAEWANARUMITKUL: Yes, yes, yes. If the people follow this news, follow the television or read the newspaper, it is quite clear for the people.

ADAM CONNORS: Even while the Bangkok governor is stepping down, he still has to face the courts over the corruption charge. And it’s not the end of his political career.

NATAPHOL TEEPSUWAN: I think Mr Apirak will go through proper court process. By being honest he can come out of this as being a winner being acquitted of all charges. However during the investigation process he feels necessary to take this step so he would not be interfering with any investigation process. I think now he will shift his focus to national politics. Bangkok is only one province in Thailand. Now he would have time to work with our party in organising to win the next national election.