Thai health minister quits in graft scandal

It was the third ministerial resignation since the government took office a year ago.

Thai health minister quits in graft scandal
Thailand's Public Health Minister resigned on Tuesday after being implicated in a corruption scandal over a health care scheme funded under the government's $43 billion economic stimulus package.

It was the third ministerial resignation since the government took office a year ago and the latest setback for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is facing mounting pressure to dissolve parliament and call an election.

The departure of Witthaya Kaewparadai, a member of the ruling Democrat Party, may also lead to a cabinet reshuffle, which could further destabilise an uneasy military-backed coalition dogged by disunity and internal power struggles.

Witthaya stepped down after an investigation found he was negligent in his handling of a three-year, 86 billion baht ($2.57 billion) procurement project.

"I want to show responsibility to the public," Witthaya said in announcing his decision.

The panel recommended that Witthaya and his deputy, Manit Nopamornbodi, be disciplined for backing ministry plans to build facilities and buy medical equipment deemed unnecessary and grossly overpriced by local health officials.

The committee said nine unelected officials were also involved in the scandal involving the stimulus programme, implemented to speed up economic revival but also seen as a populist move to boost the government's popularity.

Abhisit is expected to forward the findings to the National Anti-Corruption Commission for further action.

The opposition Puea Thai party, which backs exiled ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, intends to raise the issue during a censure debate early next year planned to coincide with anti-government rallies by the billionaire's "red shirt" supporters.


Reuters

Last Mod: 29 Aralık 2009, 11:41
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