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Democrats to stand by Sukhumbhand, BTS deal

Krungthep Thanakom has followed the law and abided by the contract to operate Bangkok's Skytrain system, the company's managing director Amorn Kitchawengkul said yesterday in response to the Department of Special Investigation summoning Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) executives to acknowledge charges of operating the mass transit business without permission.

DSI also announced that it would summon incumbent governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra to face charges.

Amorn put this down to pure politics. "The move is to create public suspicion against Sukhumbhand," he said.

Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut also confirmed yesterday that the party had no intentions of changing its candidate for the upcoming Bangkok elections, adding that the DSI's move just a government ploy to bully the opposition.

In addition, Election Commission secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong said the soon-to-be-filed charges against Sukhumbhand would not affect his qualifications as a candidate.

As for the pending charges, Amorn said his company and the Bangkok Mass Transit System had been granted a concession by the Interior Ministry to operate the mass transit system and that it had followed all the laws concerned.

"This project has been checked and approved by the company's and the BMA's legal departments as well as the Bangkok City Council, including 200 academics, who spent three years looking at every detail," he said.

He insisted that the project was not in violation of the Revolutionary Order number 58, citing comments from the Council of State. According to the Council of State, the Revolutionary Order number 58 does not require the Metropolitan Electricity Authority and the Metropolitan Water Authority to abide by the order because they are governed by an Act that allows them to operate independently, just like the BMA. Article 89 (8) of the Bangkok Administration 1985 Act allows the BMA to independently operate transport businesses in areas within its jurisdiction.

As for accusations about the concession being altered, Amorn said no changes had been made. In fact, he said the company had added more facilities such as adding better safety equipment and increasing the number of carriages to accommodate a higher number of commuters.

He said that the move to have his firm operate the BTS system for another 13 years was done in accordance with the contract. The concession stipulates that all assets under the contract will belong to the BMA, not the Interior Ministry.

Separately, ruling-Pheu Thai Party leader Charupong Ruangsuwan said his party was close to unveiling its candidate for the Bangkok race.

Refusing to confirm or deny speculation about the frontrunner Pongsapat Pongcharoen, Charupong said the party's executive board would have the final say on the nomination. He added that an opinion survey conducted by his party in Bangkok indicated that residents wanted their governor to tackle issues related to safety and drug suppression.

He said that as secretary-general of the Office of Narcotics Control Board, Pongsapat would be perfect for the job though he was not certain if the party would field him under its own banner or on an independent ticket.


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