August 19, 2012 00:00
By Pongphon Sarnsamak
Plodprasob admits to image problem, says he's innocent as tiger-export graft case kicks off
No matter what he does, no matter what he says, Science and Technology Minister Plodprasob Surassawadee, who chairs the Water and Flood Management Committee, is resigned to the fact that he is always “Mr In the Wrong”.
“Maybe my handsome face annoys them,” he told The Nation in an exclusive interview.
Plodprasob, a deputy leader of the Pheu Thai Party who is known for speaking frankly, has received a lot of public criticism of his work over the past year.
The most notable instance was when he told the media that he was “10,000 per cent” and “1 million per cent” confident that Don Mueang Airport, which was used as the headquarters of the Flood Relief Operations Command (FROC) to handle last year’s massive flooding, would not be inundated. A few days after he made the comments, the airport was under water.
He also told the media in the early stages of the crisis that the flood situation in Bangkok would not get worse, but some areas of the capital ended up submerged under more than two metres of water.
His faulty predictions have been parodied by netizens. One group produced a video clip entitled “Nostradamus of Thailand and his prediction about flood”. The video went viral, with more than 400,000 people viewing the clip. One commented, “Plodprasob, he has always been a ridiculous person.”
“I know that I am not the type of guy who is always flattering other people. Nor am I good at socialising,” Plodprasob said.
He has held many senior positions including director-general of the Fisheries Department, secretary-general of the Sea Policy and Recovery Committee, deputy permanent secretary of the Agriculture Ministry, secretary-general of the Agricultural Land Reform Office, director-general of the Royal Forest Department and permanent secretary of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry. He was also the first director of the National Disaster Warning Centre.
During his tenure as Natural Resources and Environment permanent secretary, he was accused by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) of having approved the export of 100 tigers to China in 2003, when he was head of the Royal Forest Department.
Later, then-prime minister Surayud Chulanont removed Plodprasob from his position as permanent secretary.
Last week, NACC secretary-general Apinan Israngura Na Ayuthaya met with the Office of the Attorney-General to arrange for proceedings to begin against Plodprasob over the tiger-export case.
Plodprasob said he was currently immune to legal prosecution because he is a sitting member of Parliament.
“Oh, please. Come on – I don’t know anything about this and had no involvement in it,” he said.
Last year after the flooding, Plodprasob was appointed to the Strategic Committee for Water Resources Management (SCWRM). Reports emerged of many conflicts among committee members, some of whom resigned.Plodprasob was later designated chairman of the Water and Flood Management Committee to oversee the implementation of water and flood policies drawn up by the SCWRM.
However, the relevant agencies have not collaborated with him much on proceeding with the plans.
“I am not the sort of person who uses power to force other people to follow my orders, even though the government had given me authority over all related ministries. Instead of using power, I just talk with them and try to understand their job. If I could ask them something, I would like to say, please understand that this is the way I am,” he said.
As chairman of the Water and Flood Management Committee, he is now drafting legislation to establish a Water Ministry to manage water and flood problems in the long term. All water- and flood-related agencies would come under this ministry. “I am not an ambitious person who wants to be water minister – I don’t know when this ministry will be set up. Even though this ministry will not be a Grade A state agency, it will get a large budget,” he said.