One of the topics discussed at a meeting of the House committee vetting the budget bill for the next fiscal year was the Ministry of Industry’s budget. The ministry’s proposal seeking a budget of 111 million baht, to be set aside to cover the legal fees in a dispute with an Australia-based gold mining company, Akara Resources Public Company Limited, has now been reduced to 12 million baht. Speaking of the case, Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, insisted that his government has been focusing on public demand because the previous administration had never addressed the problem. As a result, the government of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) had to get involved to deal with the issue.
Gen. Prayut said his government have been trying to address the situation, with an emphasis on public complaints relating to health, and the problem wasn’t resolved by the previous government. The case is currently in the arbitration process, and there have been negotiations on the legal aspects of both sides.
Asked whether the Prime Minister was a state official when he was the NCPO chief and exercised his authority to suspend the gold mine’s operations, Gen. Prayut said it is a thing of the past. He added that as he is now the elected Prime Minister, he must handle all problems.
Meanwhile, the House committee scrutinizing the budget bill for fiscal year 2021 resolved to cut the 111-million-baht budget sought by the Ministry of Industry. The committee voted 38 to 21 in favor of trimming the budget to 12 million baht.The funds will be set aside to cover legal expenses incurred in arbitration initiated by Kingsgate Consolidated Limited, the parent company of Akara Resources. The company is seeking compensation for the NCPO-led government’s decision to use Section 44 of the interim constitution to suspend operations at the Chatree gold mine in Phichit province.
A party-list member of parliament (MP) of the Thai Liberal Party and budget committee member, Dr. RewatWisutwet, exercised the right not to pursue the legislative amendment on the 111-million-baht budget during the second reading of the House of Representatives between September 16 and 18, 2020. He explained that the state budget should not be used to fight the case, since the Constitutional Court has already ruled that the NCPO head was not a state official. (NNT)