Battle on Thai-Chinese high-speed rail

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - NGO petitions dual court review of Article 44 order.

The controversial Thai-Chinese high-speed rail project faces a new hurdle as both the Constitutional and Administrative courts will be asked to review the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s June 16 order that granted multiple legal exemptions to the multi-billion-baht scheme.

Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for Protection of the Thai Constitution, who submitted a petition to the Ombudsman’s Office yesterday for the courts to review the order, said the legal exemptions would affect Thailand’s sovereignty.

According to the NCPO, the June 16 order is aimed at removing existing legal obstacles to speed up the Bt170-billion project. The first route will run from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima.

Srisuwan said some of the NCPO measures would run counter to Article 52 of the interim charter, resulting in a loss of Thai sovereignty. 
And at least seven Thai laws would be negatively affected due to the legal exemptions, especially with regard to public procurement and competitive bidding.

The junta’s June 16 order also violated the interim charter that empowers the NCPO to exercise its sweeping powers only in national security matters, Srisuwan said.

He believed the high-speed railway project with China should be regarded as an agreement with a foreign country subject to approval by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA).

These issues should stir the Constitutional Court and Administrative Court to review the NCPO’s order, which was equivalent to an act of law, the activist said. 

Srisuwan said he would continue to fight the project if a contract for the project was signed, by petitioning the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Office of the Comptroller-General to look into the issues.

Wissanu meets engineers and architects

Meanwhile, deputy premier Wissanu Krea-ngam held talks yesterday with top officials of the Engineering Council and the Architects Council to gather more opinions on issues regarding the Chinese engineers and architects working in Thailand on the high-speed railway project.

He said details would be included in the contract to be signed with China that may require approval from the NLA.
Thais appear to be worried about the project as a petition was launched on on Sunday, asking for more 
transparency in the rail project and use of a competitve auction.

The campaign, which got more than half of its target of 5,000 signatures, suggests that competitive bidding could screen the 
most efficient contractors to work with Thailand. The current government-to-
government model, however, does not allow Thailand to have more options on railway 

It was launched by a user named Zirikorn Photichack three days after Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha issued the Article 44 order to grant multiple legal exemptions to the project.

The PM’s order, the campaign says, could violate good governance, sound financial principles, and equal state treatment, as stipulated in the current charter. Its legal exemptions could also violate the amended 2011 bill on countering corruption, it said.

Sumet Ongkittikul of the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) said the public should air their opinions on the project, especially in regard to its feasibility and economic benefits.

He said the government risks making the wrong decision and problems would be harder to solve in the future. Thailand should also not plan to use two high-speed train systems, as another high-speed train link is being studied by Japan.

On transparency, Sumet said, the government needs to disclose full details of the economic and financial feasibility study on this project prior to granting approval and signing the contract.


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