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"Resignation call in Thai airport scandal"


 
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Resign call in Thai airport scandal 
Agence France Presse
 
 
Thai opposition parties opened their no-confidence debate against the
transport minister Monday, calling for his resignation for failing to stop
corruption in a swirling airport scandal. 

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, heading a two-party coalition, said
there is evidence Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit neglected to
prevent irregularities in the purchase of high-tech baggage scanners for
Bangkok's new airport.

``We do not hesitate to say that we cannot give our confidence in Suriya,''
Abhisit told a full session of parliament, including Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra who attended the one-day censure debate as an observer.

Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party's overwhelming majority means the
no-confidence vote has little chance of success, but the opposition hopes to
score some hits by producing damaging evidence against a longtime minister.

``He failed to prevent corruption,'' Abhisit said of Suriya in a 90-minute
speech. 

He described a complex and murky process that saw the US-made scanners
reportedly marked up from US$36.6 million (HK$285.48 million) to US$63.6
million as the deal went through various intermediaries.

``Those price differences were created without good reason,'' Abhisit said.
``This scandal has affected the country's reputation.''

Twenty-six CTX 9000 luggage scanners were purchased from US firm InVision
Technologies for use in Bangkok's US$3.7 billion Suvarnabhumi international
airport, which has been plagued by allegations of cronyism and
mismanagement.

Claims about corruption surfaced last year when US regulators found a ``high
probability'' that InVision was aware its agents or distributors had either
offered or given money to politicians and parties in Thailand, China and the
Philippines.

Thai officials swept up in the scandal were cleared by an investigation
committee that the opposition has derided as a tool to cover up wrongdoing.

Alongkorn Polbutr, a longtime Democrat MP, attacked Suriya for allowing
non-competitive bidding and not buying directly from InVision to avoid
mark-ups by intermediaries.

``This shows that there was corruption involved among groups of people,''
Alongkorn told parliament, calling for Suriya to ``resign to take
responsibility.''

As he entered parliament, Suriya said he has worked ``with honesty'' and has
little to worry about.

A vote is due tomorrow.


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