The Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases has issued an arrest warrant for the former Pattaya mayor, Itthiphol Khunpluem, in relation to his allegedly improper issuance of a building construction permit to construct the controversial Waterfront building near Pattaya Beach.
Itthiphol, who also recently served as the Thai Minister of Culture, has been accused by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) of granting an improper construction permit to Bali Hai Company Limited in 2008, when he was the mayor of Pattaya, for the construction of a high-rise condominium complex called Waterfront Suites & Residence.
The controversy around the Waterfront building first arose when residents filed complaints against it for blocking the view of Pattaya Bay from the Pratumnak viewpoint, where the statue of a famous and beloved Father of the Thai Royal Navy points to the ocean, who now points at a condo.
The NACC investigated the complaints and requested the construction to be halted. Almost a decade has passed since then, and the project remains in limbo due to numerous legal complications. Consequently, the building continues to stand as a significant eyesore at Bali Hai Pier to this day.
The issuance of the arrest warrant for Itthiphol came in response to his failure to report to the prosecutor to acknowledge his charges on September 4th. The NACC then requested a warrant on him, which was swiftly granted on September 5th.
Under Section 157 of the Criminal Code, Itthiphol may potentially face imprisonment for a duration ranging from 1 to 10 years if convicted. Nevertheless, the statute of limitations for this case is 15 years, meaning that it will expire on September 10th, 2023.
Meanwhile, Thai reporters reached out to one of the Khunpluem clan members, Mr. Narongchai Khunpluem, the Mayor of Saensuk Municipality, to ask about his opinion on this case.
He said: “Neither I nor my family have been able to contact Itthiphol. I can only assume that he must be under a lot of stress right now.”
Narongchai revealed that he is not aware of this matter until the warrant is out. However, he believed that Itthiphol was being unfairly singled out.
The land title deed in question was issued by the Land Department, which is not related to the municipality that Itthiphol oversaw, and the design was carried out by foreign experts in accordance with the land title deed, Narongchai explained.
As of press time, Itthophol’s whereabouts are unknown and he has not released a statement.