Thai Airways has close links to the military. Source: Wikimedia
Thailand’s military government is under increasing pressure to investigate corruption allegations surrounding Britain’s Rolls-Royce and two state-controlled enterprises.
Prosecutors in the US and UK claim representatives of Rolls-Royce made illicit payments over more than 20 years to Thai government staff, Thai Airways International and the energy group PTT.
Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said the documents relating to the bribery by Rolls-Royce did not refer to any names and only mentioned that the bribes had been paid to “state officials and Thai (Airways) employees”.
Thai Airways might have to ask for more details from the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the minister said. He said he did not know if the SFO was empowered to share its information with a foreign country.
Without more details from London, the committee might have to interrogate former Thai managers who held office during the periods of bribery identified by the SFO, Arkhom said.
Thai Airways has longstanding links with the air force and some of the allegations relate to a period of military rule, putting added pressure on the current junta. Both Thai Airways and PTT say they will examine the allegation, part of a case in which Rolls-Royce agreed to pay US$841 million to settle charges relating to numerous countries. Neither Thai Airways nor PTT are being charged.
The Office of the Auditor General, the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission and the National Anti-Corruption Commission were seeking details from Thai Airways, Arkhom said.
Konok Aphiradee, the airline’s president from 2002 to 2006, said the management rarely had the authority to buy aircraft engines with the decisions left for the cabinet to approve.
The airline’s management only acknowledged project details but had no power to secure or change any specifications, Konok said.
Konok called for independent oversight of the process.
Tawatchai Yongkittikul of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand NGO also demanded government scrutiny into the allegations.
“If the UK has already penalised, and we don’t do anything, how can we face the world? It’s about the credibility of the country,” Tawatchai said.
The Thai National Anti-Corruption Commission said it would cooperate with London to address the allegations.
The SFO alleged last week that Rolls-Royce representatives had paid more than US$36 million to intermediaries on three deals for Thai Airways to buy engines, in 1991-92 under military rule, 1992-97 and 2004-05.