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Thai opposition to pursue 'rice scam'
Publication Date : 02-12-2012
Thai anti-corruption body to be approached after China's ambassador denies any government-to-government purchases
Thailand's opposition Democrat Party vowed to press ahead with the corruption case against the government after the Chinese ambassador to Bangkok on Friday said Beijing had not committed to buying any Thai rice on a government-to-government basis. Beijing had only recommended private firms to buy, according to ambassador Guan Mu.
Democrat MP Warong Dechgitvigrom said he will tomorrow lodge a complaint with the National Anti-Corruption Commission in a case involving irregularities in the government's rice-pledging scheme.
Evidence he would attach with the complaint would include the copies of cashier cheques, including those belonging to Siam Indica issued to pay to the Foreign Trade Department as well as a diagram of the money-transfer routes, and authorisation documents of the people involved in the case to GSSG Import and Export Corp.
He would also submit the statements of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom on the rice trading between the Thai and the Chinese governments as well as the evidence of the links between the people involved and fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Warong has also prepared a letter to be submitted, asking the Anti-Money Laundering Office to investigate whether the irregularities were actually money laundering.
Ambassador Guan Mu on Friday had denied his government's purchase of 5 million tonnes of rice as claimed by the Thai Commerce Ministry, saying it only took part in recommending to state enterprises or private companies to buy.
He said Chinese companies had signed a contract to buy thousands of tonnes of rice from Thailand but not as much as 5 million tonnes as claimed by the Thai Commerce Ministry. He said China buys rice from many countries.
The ambassador was talking to the media as he joined a group of political students from China to meet Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. He refused to talk about GSSG, saying there were 4-5 companies involved in the rice trading with Thailand.
Meanwhile, Thai jasmine rice was bought at a high price as Chinese people in the South like its taste, he said.
Democrat MP Ong-Art Klampaiboon asked the government to reveal the government-to-government rice-trading contract, customs documents and the evidence of payment from the Chinese government to Thailand.
The opposition, during a censure debate last week, established a link between the government's rice-pledging scheme and suspected massive money laundering by producing evidence of a dummy company, individuals and old ghosts like President Agri Trading and Siam Indica, who were found involved in non-existent rice deals.
The rice deals were supposed to be part of government-to-government contracts.
In response, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom insisted strongly that the government did indeed sell rice as part of a government-to-government contract. All rice exports are verified by the Foreign Trade Department while the buyers are verified by the embassy, he said, adding that those involved in the deal are government agencies, not a Chinese company as alleged by the opposition.
In October, Boonsong said Thailand had exported 7 million tonnes of rice in the rice-pledging scheme to foreign governments but he did not show any evidence.
So far, the Yingluck government has boosted the state's rice inventory to more than 10 million tonnes after launching an unlimited pledging scheme, offering 15,000 baht (US$488.4) per tonne, which is more than 33 per cent above the prevailing market price.
This has resulted in the government's inability to export a significant amount of rice, but has opened up opportunities to other exporting nations such as India and Vietnam, whose export shipments have already surpassed those of Thailand this year.