In the scenic province of Kalasin, a transformative event transpired in March 2018 – the fitting of an electronic monitoring bracelet on an inmate, captured in a gripping photo by Yongyuth Phuphuangphet. This seemingly minor event sets the stage for a whirlwind of tension and controversy that ensues.
We follow the persistent Srisuwan Janya, a political activist known for his relentless pursuit of justice. Friday saw him at the Justice Ministry’s door, petition in hand, fervently demanding an investigation into the alleged manipulation of bids involving the procurement of outdated electronic monitoring (EM) ankle bracelets. An eyebrow-raising sum of 1.6 billion baht had been dropped on these obsolete contraptions. The snag? The equipment was outdated, an inconvenient relic of past years. The tension builds as we realize the sweeping scale of the potential scandal.
The plot thickens when Srisuwan explores the connection between the procurement and the mysterious prison release of construction mogul Premchai Karnasuta. Unfathomably, Karnasuta evaded the requirement to wear an EM bracelet after his release from Thong Pha Phum prison, citing health complications from diabetes. The Department of Corrections (DoC) concurred, underscoring the unfolding drama.
According to Srisuwan, the procurement of these outdated EM tools had been emitting the unpalatable odour of graft for years. His investigation uncovers a web of deceit, an entanglement of academics suspiciously connected to the winning bidder, forming a Terms of Reference (ToR) committee. Shockingly, some purported committee members confessed they never set foot at any meetings. Astoundingly, necessary signatures were missing from essential procurement documents, haunting testimonials of the negligence displayed by the DoC.
Adding to the sense of urgency is the sobering reality of the outdated EM technology. We’re seven years past its prime – a lifetime in tech evolution. Modern EM trackers, smartwatch-like in their compact size yet robust structure, leave the older versions in the dust. Even dark caves or deep waters don’t compromise the tracking capabilities of these new devices, Srisuwan argues. Yet, against this backdrop, the Justice Ministry continues to procure archaic EM bracelets, seemingly favouring the winning bidder.
A flabbergasting count of 60,000 outdated EM bracelets have slipped through the procurement process. The exorbitant sum spent? A whopping 1.6 billion baht. That’s a staggering 73,333 baht each for devices that are valued at an average of a humble 7,700 baht per set. With greater quantity comes a lesser price, but this principle is seemingly snubbed. To further exemplify the alleged corruption, Srisuwan unveils that the ministry is gearing up to request a budget of 1.2 billion baht for procuring more of the same outdated EM bracelets. It’s an impending sequel of wastage and manipulation that must be averted, cries Srisuwan.
He wraps up his plea with a powerful proclamation, “We demand the Justice Ministry scraps the new procurement plan and sets up a committee to probe”. As this thrilling saga continues to unfold, will justice prevail or will the shadows of corruption prevail?