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Phuket Opinion: Let’s make a deal

PHUKET: There’s something fishy about the dismissal of former Kathu Mayor Chai-anan Suthikul, now removed from office over his alleged role in allowing a private operator to draw water from a lagoon at the Tin Mining Museum in Kathu.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 29 January 2023, 09:00AM

Former Kathu Mayor Chai-anan Suthikul. Photo: Kathu Municipality

Former Kathu Mayor Chai-anan Suthikul. Photo: Kathu Municipality

It’s not that he’s being accused of using his position of influence for private gain, that’s nothing new in Thailand. You could throw a rock in the air and it’s bound to land on some senior official guilty of something similar. The oddity is that his dismissal was over only this.

Chai-anan was very well known in Kathu. He was among the most visible local politicians on the island, forever attending major public events in his area, nearly all of them for charity or community benefit.

He had at his disposal access to all sorts of public projects, many of them worth so much more than allowing water to be taken from a government-owned source. Keep in mind that the B27 million spent on repairs to the landslide site on Patong Hill came from Kathu Municipality budget. If you think the repairs, to be fair completed in just 60 days, actually cost B27mn, let us know.

Yet, as far as the National Anti-Corruption Comission (NACC) branch in Phuket is concerned, Chai-anan’s involvement in a water supply scheme is all they can prove.

Chai-anan’s dismissal, without any mention so far of criminal or corruption charges, smacks of the type of interference during Phuket’s days of old, when a person with a grievance against a particular person or a particular business interest would have “a concerned local resident” file a formal complaint against a person, but spotlighting an issue that has nothing to do with what actually spurred the reprisal.

Making deals is what public office in Thailand is all about. The only ones people hear about are either so extremely self-serving they truly cause harm to the local community, or it is a form of character and/or career assassination for another person’s benefit. This long-standing practice is so blatantly obvious that no one even questions it anymore, and is even a standard inclusion in Thai soap operas where it is not even presented as a pivotal plot point. That is how subsumed into Thai modern culture this practice is.

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All this begs the question of why would Chai-anan be taken down for a local water supply scheme when he had access to so much more? Of course the allegations against him may be true, and he has 90 days* to appeal his dismissal, but it just doesn’t add up.

What does add up is that this comes as Thais on Phuket are becoming more comfortable in publicly reporting grievances through the ‘citizen empowerment’ app ‘Traffy Fondue’. No longer can officials ignore the plethora of social media posts highlighting problems and suspicious activities in their areas.

At a meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall on Thursday (Jan 26), Phuket Vice Governor Amnuay Pinsuwan confirmed that from Dec 19 to Jan 25, there were 317 complaints received from the public. Of those zero cases were still waiting for a response from the relevant government office, 99 cases were in progress and 163 complaints had been resolved. (Fifty-five of the complaints received were deemed inappropriate/irrelevant for action through the app.)

The people who filed the complaints themselves had given the response/action taken ratings that overall averaged 4.46/5. This speaks loudly of Traffy Fondue’s effectiveness, but it must be kept in mind that it is still just a tool, which can be used for a wide range of motives, including brokering deals.

* Correction: Not 60 days, as originally reported. The error is regretted.

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Kurt | 30 January 2023 - 11:25:42

PN: "He had at his disposal access to all sort of ( bigger) public projects".  But many more 'Officials' involved in such projects.  They just want his fall, not of many others, so they keep it simple, just a small water drawing thing to get him rid of him, and not all the others involved in bigger 'projects'. Easy to understand. TIT

JohnC | 29 January 2023 - 09:23:43

Most likely pissed off the wrong wealthy well connected "businessman/men" by not giving the same deal or being so generous in helping out with their "requests".

Kurt | 29 January 2023 - 09:22:22

Great Opinion piece again. That 'throwing a rock in the air' express a lot if not everything. Anyway, it looks like some people decided that mr Chai-anan until now got enough. Guess jealousy plays a rol too. Others now are lining up for the lucrative feeding troughs turn.


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