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|07-07-2013, 03:25 PM||#1 (permalink)|
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Phuket enforcer accused of corruption
Phuket Enforcer Accused of Corruption in Mystery Letter Copied to Thailand's PM
By Chutima Sidasathian
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Phuket Enforcer Accused of Corruption in Mystery Letter Copied to Thailand's PM - Phuket Wan
PHUKET: Anonymous accusations of corruption involving millions of baht on Phuket were rejected today by the Director of Kathu District, Veera Kerdsirimongkol.
A letter being circulated to Kathu residents - copied to the Prime Minister, the Interior Minister, the Damrungtam complaints office and other officials - claims Khun Veera has been asking for large sums of money so criminal charges can be forgotten.
By coincidence, news of the corruption allegations breaks with the results of a survey showing that 65 percent of Thais think bribes and graft are tolerable if they are the beneficiaries.
Khun Veera has been conducting campaigns over drugs, property claims to public land, nightlife open after hours and encroachment on hillsides since he arrived on Phuket in March.
''People should note that the letterbox campaign against me involved copies of the 'Dear Resident' letter being dropped into boxes where there are no security cameras,'' Khun Veera said today, rejecting the allegations.
His crackdowns are likely to have disturbed many local powerbrokers and the inference is that the petition is an attempt to get an enforcer banished from Kathu, generally accepted to be the most corrupt of Phuket's three districts.
Topping a series of allegations is the claim in the letter that Khun Veera paid the ruling Pheu Thai party five million baht to win the Kathu director's job.
''For five million baht, it would hardly be worth all the trouble,'' Khun Veera told Phuketwan today. ''Too much money is involved in corruption on Phuket.''
The letter to residents, slipped into boxes overnight, lists a number of cases where it's claimed Khun Veera demanded money for cases to cease.
''Kathu is a tourist place and we have been very happy here for a long time until Khun Veera arrived,'' the letter said. ''Now we have a lot of trouble and we can't stay silent.''
The letter said that in one case where 14 people were arrested for positive drug tests, only five individuals were sent to the courts because the other nine paid 8000 baht each to avoid a charge.
In a case where a grader and three 10-wheel trucks were seized, a fee of 200,000 baht was asked for the return of each vehicle.
In a case involving a property near Phuket Country Club, Khun Veera took the land title with him, claiming it was his, the letter said.
Khun Veera had been asking for money from restaurants and bars in Patong to stay open after hours, the letter said.
People employing Burmese - whether legal or illegal - in camps around Kathu were being asked to pay 500 baht per worker, the letter said.
Corrupt money was also being asked of masseuses on Phuket beaches, the letter alleged.
''There are many other issues, too many to fit in this letter,'' the petition claims.
Phuketwan has always advocated a start-again policy in appointing all police and officials on Phuket to make the island a corruption-free role model for all Thai provinces.
In a long interview last month, Khun Veera told Phuketwan: ''There have been calls already to my boss [at the Interior Ministry,] asking for me to be moved. But as far as I'm concerned, I'm here for the long haul.
''And as long as I am here, I will enforce the law without regard to who is breaking the law. Big or small, it's all the same to me.''
Enforcing the law on Phuket is often a game of hide and seek. Yet drawing a blank has been rare for Khun Veera, whose strike rate on raids of all kinds since he took on the district director's job ihas been high.
Projects on the hilltops that appear to have gone unseen by authorities with poor eyesight are being spotted by Khun Veera, who has 20/20 vision.
Readers were told to expect more action on time-share touts, jet-ski scammers, hilltop property developers, drug-takers and water thieves.
Khun Veera said he had six issues that he aimed to be concentrating on in his attempt to clean up Kathu.
His territory takes in a large slice of the middle of Phuket, including Patong. In Phuket's nightlife hub, local authorities admit that 14 local departments and authorities all have a stake in Patong corruption.
Bribes, extortion, rip-offs, scams . . . you name it. And in the end, guess who pays? That's right, the Phuket tourist. Always.
Corruption on Phuket is eveywhere, fuelling greed, bringing with it victims among tourists, residents, and future generations of Phuket people.
Thailand needs the revenue from tourism, so the corruption that is gradually crippling Phuket strikes directly at the future of the entire country.
For now, Khun Veera told his focus was on his own patch, Kathu. He has six priorities:
1. Stop Attacks on Public Land
KHUN VEERA has already made multiple arrests along the hillsides above Patong, Karon and Kamala and more recently on the foreshore at Kalim. There will be more. ''We will not people take public land for their own use. This is pretty simple. The theft of public land is one of Phuket's most serious problems.''
2. Save Phuket Beaches from Greed
HOW IS it that the number of umbrellas keep rising each year, as more and more of Phuket's beaches disappear beneath commercialisation for private profit? ''Some of Phuket's best beaches now have six rows of umbrellas and the people in the front rows have their toes in the water,'' Khun Veera says. ''This is pure greed.'' [Phuketwan believes that only an independent Phuket Beach Authority can protect and save Phuket's beaches.]
3. End Jet-Ski Scams
THERE HAS been no end to problems with jet-skis and rip-offs, and use of the noisy, pollutiong machines has expanded to beaches where they are not supposed to be operating. Khun Veera - unlike Phuket's Marine Office 5 - sees the need for controls, not compromise.
4. Stop the Time-Share Touts
''THE TOUTS operate on the edge of the law and attract people to invest under false lures and promises. They should be stopped,'' he says. So far the touts have escaped arrest.
5. End Drug-Taking in Nighspots
''WE HAVE been making raids at least once a week and those raids will go on until everyone tests negative to drugs,'' Khun Veera said. ''We won't stop until we have clear signs that there is no drug-taking, and no weapons to be found, either. The message is getting through. I still notice a high proportion of ladyboys appear to be drug-takers.''
6. Find the Kathu Waterfall Thieves
''HOW CAN people steal water from one of Phuket's most appealing tourist attractions? It's just basic theft. We will catch these people and throw the book at them.''
Khun Veera believes Phuket was once ''a lovely place'' and a natural asset for Thailand. ''Now it's crowded with greedy, self-interested people who are only interested in money,'' he said.
His arrival appears to be well-timed in view of last month's powerful agitation for change by Chinese Ambassador Guan Mu, who wants an end to corruption so that tourists are properly protected.
If there was no corruption, Khun Veera would have little to do. Yet some tasks seem to be more difficult than others.
''You know, we have cracked down on the Patong touts with iguanas and slow lorises,'' he said. ''We think there's only one iguana tout left operating now because we haven't spotted any slow lorises lately.''
Like corruption and bribery on Phuket, just because you can't see them doesn't mean they're not still there.
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