FIO chief denies budget misuse during Swedish royal visit to Thailand

Managing director Chanatt Laohawattana of the Forest Industry Organisation (FIO) on May 6 defended himself over an allegation the FIO misused a 16.9-million-baht budget for a pavilion in Phitsanulok botanical garden to welcome the Swedish king and queen.
He said the scheme had been officially approved by the Prime Minister’s Office and Deputy Prime Minister Korn Dabbaransi.
Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Sora-at Klinprathum, chairman of FIO’s executive board, said he would set up an inquiry panel to look into the matter.
Mr. Sora-at said Mr. Chanatt did not inform him about the project.
The FIO chief currently faces a disciplinary probe for alleged power abuse after endorsing an auction of teak wood worth 200 million baht as well as bids for turning an FIO sawmill in Khlong San into a flower market.
In his own defence, Mr. Chanatt said the FIO has designed the most appropriate building and site-seeing trails for the visit to Khao Krayang botanical garden by King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden on February 28.
The Prime Minister’s Office and Mr. Korn, who headed a working committee that prepared the welcome ceremony for the royal visit, gave the project the go-ahead and approved the budget.
In preparation for the welcome ceremony, the FIO put up the 7.8-million-baht building, which could accommodate 60-70 people, Mr. Chanatt said.
The remaining budget was used to improve seven lodges in the garden, installation of 21 air-conditioners, asphalt road construction, and decoration of the site.
An Agriculture Ministry source said, however, that the Foreign Affairs Ministry had disagreed with the FIO’s plan and repeatedly sent notices to the FIO managing director opposing the erection of permanent establishments in forests, saying that the Swedish king, an environmentalist, preferred a simple resting shelter. Mr. Chanatt argued that the Foreign Affairs Ministry told him once to adjust the scheme but withdrew its opposition after Mr. Korn approved the FIO’s original plan.
He also claimed it was better to establish permanent buildings than wasting state budget with temporary sites.
In response to the accusation he breached an FIO regulation that a managing director had the power to approve budgets of no more than five million baht, Mr. Chanatt said the budget had been allocated by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Original story by Kultida Samabuddhi, Bangkok Post

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