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Govt refuses to discuss Bt21m bill for charter flight to security meet in Hawaii

THE government has refused to comment on the almost Bt21 million for Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and his team to travel to Hawaii for the Asean-US Defence Ministers’ meeting on the weekend - a cost that includes the hiring of a charter flight.



Government Spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday he could not comment on the Bt20.9-million bill, after a document released on Friday detailed a breakdown of costs of the trip. 
It is very rare for the Secretariat of the Prime Minister to release details of costs of an official trip on its website, and Sansern said he was not in a position to speak on behalf of the deputy premier, who is also defence minister. 
The government agency sometimes announces the standard price of an auction bid for its procurement but it was unusual to announce such thing after the contract was signed.The document released on Friday shows the charter flight was hired for Thursday until yesterday. As it was a government trip, national carrier Thai Airways International was the sole choice. 
“Please ask the Defence Ministry’s spokesperson [about the trip],” Sansern told reporters. “I don’t know the details of the trip since I have no experience in travelling for such a programme abroad.”
Of the Bt20.9 million budget, Bt3.8 million was for the cost of the aircraft, Bt10.7 million was for fuel, Bt600,000 was for food and drinks, Bt2.6 million was for ground operations and Bt3.1 million was spent on management costs.
The division of foreign affairs at the Secretariat of the Prime Minister is the agency responsible for the trip, the document revealed. 
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter invited defence ministers from Asean for the “informal” meeting in Hawaii to discuss regional security matters.
Sansern said usually the host country would arrange a budget to cover the cost of the heads of delegation and a few other officials, “but we have to take care of the rest and I don’t know about that part”.
An official at the Defence Ministry said there were 38 officials on the trip with Prawit and the expense for each of Bt500,000 for the four-day trip was reasonable. 
Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Khongcheep Tantrawanich unveiled the outcome of the Hawaii meeting but did not mention anything about the cost of the trip. 
The US praised Thailand for its effort to curb human trafficking and illegal fishing, he said. The meeting mostly focused on US and Asean cooperation on countering terrorists and transnational crime, plus problems in the South China Sea, he said. 

Published : October 02, 2016