Thai PM defends biometric hardware procurement


BANGKOK – A topic brought up in the current censure debate this morning is suspicions arising in the 2 billion baht immigration fingerprint and facial biometrics system enhancement project, which has been reported in the news previously.

A Chiang Rai MP from Phuea Thai Party Wisarn Techatheerawat has raised concerns on alleged irregularities in project auction process, contract amendments regarding hardware specifications, system errors, and failure to deliver the system on time by the winning contractor.

He pointed out a connection where an executive of the contractor was enrolled in the same justice system course for executives with the Prime Minister wife, stressing corruption in this project has caused damage to the state.

Addressing this allegation, the Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha explained that the project is necessary, and all aspects of its acquisition fully comply with government regulations and protocols.

He said the enhanced biometrics system allows the authorities to track immigration records of each individual with better accuracy, which helps improve protection against international crime. He admitted the delay in delivery was partially due to incompetence on the part of government agencies, thus the contractor had to be accorded some fairness.

“The delivery delay was also due to issues by government agencies, that’s why we had to make it fair for the contractor. I have ordered that every process must be fair to both sides, and both the government and the people must benefit from the project. All government contractors, not only in this project, must be treated fairly. The problem with this project was, when they were trying to take the system online, they couldn’t make signal connections.

This was partially our fault. We have to admit that, because we have made several checks. Some cases were because the signal would not transfer from the old system, or the venues were not ready for them to install the new hardware. So that’s why the contract was extended. However all extensions combined did not exceed the 3-year limit as restricted in the main contract.”

On the subject of the contractor’s personal connection with the Prime Minister’s wife, Gen Prayut said it is natural for any individual to have a personal relationship with members of the private sector, however his administrative work is not related in any way. He also advised companies not to believe in any claims of personal connections.