From New Year’s light shows that were more impressive in their price tag than their display to a giant tunnel the didn’t drain the city, there’s no doubt that Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra has worked hard to ensure that Bangkokians have the best of everything — no matter how much he had to overspend and whose pockets got lined.
Sukhumbhand is set to step down from his post as Bangkok Governor next year, but we might have to say goodbye to him even sooner since he faces suspension due to an alleged corruption case.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and recall Sukhumbhand’s highlight reel for the seven long years in which he has questionably served Bangkok as governor.
Let’s start from the beginning:
He led a “water eviction” ceremony during the 2011 flood (Oct. 2011)
Bangkok was hit with floodwaters in October 2011, when residents and stores reinforced their buildings with sandbag walls and parked their cars illegally on elevated expressways to prevent damage.
Several areas in Bangkok, and the surrounding area, were mostly underwater and the situation had reached a crisis point. So, Sukhumbhand held a traditional “water eviction” ceremony at the City Pillar Shrine and prayed that the water level in Bangkok would decrease.
He ordered a false evacuation during the 2011 flood (Nov. 2011)
City residents were in full panic mode and feared that flood water could hit their houses any day. It did not help when the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, led by Sukhumbhand, mistakenly issued a letter ordering residents of Phaya Thai to evacuate. That part of the city was actually one of the only ones that was mostly dry.
He said “anybody can make mistakes. It is the people who should decide whether they trust the BMA,” according to The Nation.
He built Futsal Arena to welcome FIFA, who then refused to use it (Sept. 2012)
Photo: Sukhumbhand Paribatra/ Facebook
As a host of the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup, the BMA spent THB1.2 billion to magically create a new futsal arena, later titled “Bangkok Arena.” They delivered this stadium in just about 250 days, half of the time that the construction was supposed to take. FIFA refused to use the arena due to safety concerns and held their events at Indoor Stadium Huamark.
Sukhumbhand apologized and said he really tried to rush the construction of the 15,300 sq.m. arena. He insisted he “would not quit” in his role as governor.
After all, he said he didn’t build the stadium for FIFA but for Bangkokians, Kapook reported.
He allegedly lied about the amount of rain fall to protect his giant tunnel (Oct. 2012)
Following a year of floods, the BMA went big with their spending to build a giant drainage tunnel for the Rama IX and Ramkhamhaeng area, but when the expensive single tunnel failed to fix the flooding problem, Sukhumbhand claimed that it was because “Bangkok had the most rainfall in 50 to 100 years,” according to an article on Manager.
But before he got away with it, Thai Meteorological Department stepped in to say they had no idea where Sukhumbhand got his stats from. Apparently, the actual rainfall for September 2012 was only 340.7 millimeters and there was no record for the rainfall from 100 years ago.
He resigned early…in order to campaign for his re-election (Jan. 2013)
Photo: Sukhumbhand Paribatra/ Facebook
Sukhumbhand loved his governor job so much that he reportedly resigned one day before his term ended just so that he could earn an extra 15 days to campaign for the next governor’s election in 2013, according to Bangkok Post.
Under the BMA Act, if the current governor serves out his term, the election must be held within 45 days, but in case that a governor resigns early, the deadline is extended to 60 days, which means a longer period to campaign.
And, as you know, his actions served him well and he won the next election.
He told those suffering in flood to ‘go live on a mountain’ (March 2015)
Photo: Sukhumbhand Paribatra/ Facebook
After years of trying to unsuccessfully drain Bangkok of floodwater, Sukhumbhand pretty much said “Fuck it” in 2015 when reporters asked him how the government had prepared for the latest rainy season.
A reporter asked if there were any areas in Bangkok that would be in risk of flooding, Sukhumbhand brushed it off with his most controversial quote as Bangkok’s Governor.
“There are still risky areas [that might be flooded]. Bangkok is a water city, a rain city. It’s impossible not to have risky areas. If you don’t want risky areas, go live on a mountain.”
One day later, state media rolled out a poll result that Sukhumbhand was still popular among Bangkokians.
He became the Lord of Light with THB40 million rental light show (Dec. 2015)
For the night is dark and full of terrors, how can we forget this one?
The governor put himself in the spotlight for scrutiny last December after he spent THB40 million renting the light display “Motif of Light” that was on display in front of City Hall as a New Year’s “gift for citizens.”
He is now facing a corruption allegation over the project because he allegedly misused City Hall’s central fund, which was reserved for emergencies only, and City Council may not have consented to the ostentatious expenditure, which makes spending all that baht unlawful.
The Center for National Anti-Corruption is reviewing the case. Sukhumbhand is in risk of being suspended, according to The Nation.
He treated himself to a THB16.5 million office renovation (June 2016)
Following the controversy over his THB40 million New Year light project, Sukhumbhand was faced with more spending criticism after the budget plan for his THB16.5 million office renovation was published in local media.
The part that drew the most criticism was the luxurious list of items that most citizens will never be able to afford. These included a dining table worth THB130,500; two dining chairs with arm rests for THB122,400; and eight dining chairs without arm rests for THB436,000. This dining set alone totaled THB688,900 — the cost of a brand-new Japanese car.
The office was completed with a 75-inch television (THB329,900) and a blu-ray player (THB3,990). Of course, all city officials need a blu-ray player for, um, official work.
He claimed he needed to giant TV to keep an eye on city flooding via CCTV.
According to Sukhumbhand, Bangkok was not flooded this year (June 2016)
After the entire city was stopped by heavy rainfall that turned several roads into swimming pools for cars on the morning of June 21, Sukhumbhand still wasn’t ready to admit that Bangkok was flooded.
He apologized for the inconvenience caused by the water, but couldn’t say Bangkok was flooded yet. It only had “water to drain.”
Last but not least, he approved the purchase of mini fire trucks with maxi price tags and questionable uses (July 2016)
Photo: TNN 24
In his latest controversy, the BMA bought 20 mini firetrucks, at a total cost of THB160 million, which were basically adapted ATVs with pricy extinguishers attached.
“The trucks are adapted ATVs that have windshields and extinguishers installed on them. They’re quite bizarre because they cost THB2.5 million each, but the turning light is as small as a thumb… The backlights are small little boxes. When you drive it, you can’t see anything in the rearview mirror. Only superheroes can use them,” said Wilart Chanpithak, former a Democrat MP.
Bangkok Post reported that the vehicles’ extinguishers cost three times more than market price, but Sukhumbhand’s spokesman Wasan Meewong said they’re German technology and “as long as they serve the public, they are worth the money paid.”
Sukhumbhand reportedly refused to answer questions about the fire trucks and sent his spokesman to meet with reporters who waited to interview him after an BMA meeting, according to Matichon.
It’s been a long seven years and we’re not sure we’re gonna miss him.
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