The twin systems together cost more than B355.52 million, but stand accused as gross failures in treating wastewater before it flows into Bang Tao Bay.
The DSI investigators yesterday were led by Pol Capt Prasit KhanSai, Chief of DSI Operations Center Region 8. Joining him were special investigators Supachai Khamkhum and Pantamit Chuibumroong.
During their visit the investigators questioned Mr MaAnn and inspected the plans and the government contracts to build and operate the wastewater-treatment systems, officers from the DSI confirmed to The Phuket News.
Present to observe the inspection at the popular tourist beaches yesterday were Danai Yardee and other representatives from local community groups including the Local Fishery network, the Coastal Community network, the Conservation Network of the Gulf of Thailand-Andaman coast, and the Natural Resources Recovery network.
Mr Danai said that the investigation was in accordance with DSI order 142/2019, issued on July 18.
Mr Danai and Chamroon Kerndum together filed formal complaints with the DSI office in Surat Thani. Other complaints were also filed with the regional office for the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and the regional Ombudsman’s Office, also in Surat Thani. (See story here.)
The complaints alleged malfeasance and possible corruption in the B355mn project to build wastewater treatment plants at Surin and Bang Tao beaches, which in May were confirmed to still be releasing untreated wastewater onto the beaches.
The initial investigation into the complaints, which included the water spilling onto the beach carrying a foul smell, was carried out by officers from the Damrongtham Center (Ombudsman’s Office), Thalang District Office and Cherng Talay Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor) as well as local village headmen and local residents.
Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana arrived to inspect the facilities in person, and ordered for urgent steps to be taken to prevent any more foul water pouring onto the beach.
“This problem affects the beautiful image of our tourist city (sic). We need to urgently find a way to solve this problem to alleviate the suffering of the people who are being affected by the pollution,” he said. (See story here.)
“I and network leader Mr Chamroon informed DSI investigation officers (about the wastewater-treatment systems in Cherng Talay) for many reasons, including beach area invasion, corruption by officials from various organizations, and collusion, leading to damage to the marine ecosystem of Surin-Bang Tao Beach, which is a protected area,” Mr Danai said yesterday.
Capt Prasit explained that the objective of the visit yesterday was only to collect information.
“We will review this as a special case later. We will consider whether the equipment provided is the same quality as specified in the contract.
“The Terms of Reference (in the government contract) will also be examined because complainants reported corruption in the project, which cost more than B300mn,” he said.
“The construction and treatment system may not be the same as specified in the contract, and it may take more than six months to conclude this investigation,” he added.
Rangsan Saalay, leader of the Bang Tao fishery and tourism network, pointed out that the problem of wastewater being released into Bang Tao Bay had been ongoing for a long time.
“No officials have ever solved the problem. The wastewater treatment system may not work because a lot of wastewater still flows into the sea,” he said.
“It’s like we don’t have a treatment system at all,” he added.
In response to the investigation Mr MaAnn The Phuket News today (July 31), “It is just the normal process of a complaint being investigated. A complaint has been filed, so the DSI came down to follow up the complaint as it is their job.
“I assure you that some information provided to the investigators is beyond the truth,” he said.
“Whatever the complaint is, let’s wait until we see the results from the DSI investigation. That’s all,” Mr MaAnn added.