A Thai politician and former senior official of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration BMA were sentenced in absentia by a local court to 12 years and 10 years in jail, respectively, today for corruption in the purchase of fire boats and trucks from an Austrian company in 2004. 

The Supreme Courts Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions ruled that Pracha Maleenont, former deputy interior minister, and Pol Maj Gen Athilak Tanchukiat, former head of the BMAs Disaster Prevention and Relief Department, were found guilty in the purchase of fire-fighting boats, trucks and equipment, worth Bt 6.686 billion, for BMA.

The court acquitted three other defendants including Bhokin Polakul, former interior minister, Wattana Muangsuk, former deputy commerce minister, and Apirak Kosayothin, former BMA governor. The lawsuit against the Austrian supplier Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug AG was temporarily deferred by the court. The court issued a warrant for Mr Pracha who failed to appear in court on August 6 and today, and confiscated Pol Maj Gen Athilak’s bond and ordered him to appear before the court on October 16 to hear the verdict.

A majority of the nine judges ruled to hand down a 12-year prison term to Pracha and a 10-year term to Pol Maj Gen Athilak Tanchukiat, former director of the Public Disaster Prevention Office, for their roles in the 6.687-billion-baht procurement deal.

Pracha is the fourth political office holder to be slapped with a jail sentence by the court – after former public health minister Rakkiat Sukthana, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and former deputy interior minister Vatana Asavahame.

Rakkiat, a former Democrat public health minister, is serving a 15-year jail sentence for corruption, handed down in 2003.

Vatana fled, apparently to Cambodia, after being sentenced in 2008 to 10 years for corruption in the Klong Dan waste water treatment project scandal. Thaksin, also sentenced in 2008, has a residence in Dubai, although he travels frequently. Like Pracha, Vatana and Thaksin were convicted and sentenced in absenti after ignoring several court orders to appear in person.

Thailand has slid from 80th to 88th place out of 176 in the 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Berlin-based Transparency International.

This year Transparency International has updated the methodology for the Corruption Perceptions Index 2012.To reflect this the Corruption Perceptions Index is presented on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Thailand scored 37 out of 100, sharing the same score and ranking with Malawi, Morocco, Suriname, Swaziland and Zambia. The kingdom ranked 80th among 183 countries listed in the 2011 corruption index, with a score of 3.4.

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