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Preecha stands firm by wife and son amid controversies

Sep 19. 2016
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By The Nation

Defence Ministry permanent secretary General Preecha Chanocha said he stands firmly behind his wife and son, saying he did not care about recent public criticism of their alleged involvement in inappropriate activities.
An activist yesterday lodged a petition with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) against Preecha and three other high-ranking military officers over their alleged misconduct involving the public service role of Preecha’s wife. Preecha’s wife Pongphan Chan-o-cha will clarify over her alleged public roles today, according to a source. 
“I have not abused my power to seek any favours for my son … My son did it right following the due processes. I did not interfere or use my power for him to get the construction projects,” Preecha said. 
His remark came after Isra News Agency reported that Preecha’s son had obtained business concessions for Army construction projects. 
Contemporary Construction Ltd Partnership, in which Pratompol Chan-o-cha is one of three partners, was involved in contracts for two Army construction projects worth Bt26.9 million 
The two projects involved the construction of a building in the Army camp of the Third Army Region and a residential building for a hospital in a military camp in Tak province. The contract for the first project was signed in 2015 and one for the latter was signed in April 
The permanent secretary said he was not concerned about the report, as his son had done nothing wrong. 
“Everything I and my family have done is rightful. If it was illegal, I would not have done it,” Preecha said. 
He said that because he is Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s brother, his family was being linked to controversies. 
Pongphan has come under fire over her alleged improper public roles. 
Pongphan, head of the Wives Association of the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence (WAOPSD), last Monday presided over the opening of a dyke in the northern province of Chiang Mai. 
She was criticised after pictures were shared on social media of a sign bearing her image and name that was erected near the dyke. The “Mae Pongphan Development” dyke is named after her.
In addition, huge water containers bearing her name were also distributed to local Army units.
Critics argue the dyke should not be named after her, as she is just an ordinary person. 
Also, pictures showing Preecha’s wife travelling on an Air Force plane have also raised questions over her privileges and her connection with the Armed Forces. 
Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Thai Constitution, called for the NACC to investigate the conduct of four officers in connection with Pongphan’s alleged public service activities. 
The four officers are Preecha, Air Force commander-in-chief ACM Tritos Sonjaeng, the director-general of the Defence Energy Department, Lt-General Siripong Wongkhunti, and the director of the Defence Energy Department’s Northern Petroleum Development Centre, Maj-General Pisith Singharachai. 
Srisuwan said he considered Pongphan’s conduct “inappropriate” because she was not a Defence Ministry officer. 
“A lot of military officers helped build the dyke. Flying to Chiang Mai, [Pongphan] also used the Air Force’s plane, which is a public asset,” he said. 
He added that the Defence Ministry’s four high-ranking officers alleged misconduct, by facilitating Pongphan’s activity, was not in line with the anti-corruption reform efforts of Prime Minister Prayut. 
However, an official at the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence stressed Pongphan was respected by the local residents who benefited from the dyke thanks to her frequent public services including blanket donations and regular visits. 
The dyke was also initiated by Pongphan as the WAOPSD had learned of its need, the official said. The local Army units had surveyed the location and helped the local people to build the dyke, he added. The construction budget is reasonable since it covers only food, beverage, and fuel. The budget was granted by the Defence Energy Department, the official said. 

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