The Nation



Akkapol warns of lost credibility on global events stage after govt's 'lack of sincerity' over World Expo

Thailand lost credibility and its image was bruised in the global mega-events arena following its disqualification earlier this year from the contest to host the "World Expo 2020", according to the former director of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).

Akkapol Sorasuchart said the government had clearly demonstrated a lack of sincerity in regard to competing in the race to host the 2020 edition of the World Expo.

It had failed to submit a letter of confirmation to the Paris-based Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) indicating its support for the event, resulting in an end to Thailand's candidacy.

In fact, the government should have written to the BIE committee to explain the reasons for not wanting to be the host, rather than just keeping quiet, said Akkapol.

However, having not done so, other countries will have lost confidence in Thailand when it comes to the staging of future major global events, he added.

During the six months' staging of a World Expo, he said the country would have brought in more than Bt100 billion to boost the economy, along with an inflow of more than 30 million foreign visitors.

Moreover, the project would have been worthwhile in terms of investment. While Bt40 billion would have been required to construct the infrastructure, this would have been spread out over seven years.

More importantly, many of the infrastructure projects required were already part of the government's mega-investment plans, said the ex-TCEB chief.

His criticism came after Dubai won the bidding on November 27 to host the World Expo 2020, beating Brazil, Russia and Turkey.

He questioned the sincerity of the Yingluck Shinawatra-led government in the bidding, and said he wondered whether its revised stance had been taken for the country's benefit, or for someone else's. It had previously announced it was making World Expo bidding a national agenda item, he pointed out.

In addition, Akkapol said he felt it was unfair for Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul to have mentioned his name in the House of Representatives during the censure debate on November 26, when Surapong accused him of resigning his directorship of the TCEB when the BIE deadline for candidacy confirmation had passed.

The minister also told the House that Thailand had lost its candidateship because the TCEB had not sent complete documentation to the committee.

Official letter sought

In fact, Akkapol said, the BIE had asked for an official letter directly from the government via the Thai Embassy in Paris to support its candidacy for the 2020 event. However, there was no response from the government by the April 5 deadline.

This letter was the last document the committee had required to prove Thailand's status as a qualified candidate, he insisted.

A report by the enquiry mission on the proposal for a registered exhibition in Ayutthaya in 2020, which was released to delegates, said: "Taking into consideration the observations and conclusion made by the mission in the body of the report, the mission concludes that this project, while technically very well elaborated, structured and developed, is not viable without the firm support of the government as stated by the BIE Convention and Regulations.

"Since the government did not provide, either during the enquiry mission or afterwards, the confirmation of its support and the necessary guarantees to the project in accordance with Article 10 paragraph 2 of the BIE Convention, the mission in line with the BIE Convention and Regulations concludes that the project does not meet the necessary requirements to be considered viable."

The BIE's enquiry mission visited Thailand from January 8 to February 1 this year to check the country's readiness - and especially Autthaya as the proposed site for the venue - to host the event. The Kingdom was the first of the country candidates to be visited by the mission.

The controversial project started in 2010 when then-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced at the World Expo in Shanghai that Thailand would join the bidding to host the event in 2020.

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