Sign of corruption? Thai railway says 33M baht to change station name totally normal

A file photo of the Bang Sue Grand Station. Photo: The State Railway of Thailand
A file photo of the Bang Sue Grand Station. Photo: The State Railway of Thailand

Days after coming under fire for spending an exorbitant sum to replace a large sign at Bangkok’s new passenger rail hub, the state railway on Tuesday rejected any suggestions of corruption.

The state railway on Tuesday afternoon said there was nothing improper about spending THB33.2 million (US$969,000) replace a large sign at the Bang Sue Grand Station.

“The project operated in accordance with the government procurement procedures,” it said in a statement. “It takes into account the utilization, budget value, engineering principles, structure safety, the people, and its success in becoming a major regional rail hub.”

Bang Sue Grand Station will officially open Jan. 19 when the first train runs at 1:19pm. Dozens of trains will be relocated from the century-old Bangkok Railway Station, aka Hua Lamphong, to the new rail system hub billed as the largest train station in Southeast Asia.

The idea for making a new sign before the station even opened came after King Vajiralongkorn bestowed the ceremonial name of “Krungthep Apiwat Central Terminal” upon it in September. That, the railway decided, required the installation of a new sign comprised of 48 Thai and 62 English letters, each three-meters high and 2.6-meters wide. 

A file photo of the Bang Sue Grand Station. Photo: The State Railway of Thailand

The expenditure came to light after Unique Engineering and Construction Public Co. Ltd., aka UNIQ, notified the stock exchange on Saturday of the contract, which also involves building two new large state railway emblems.

A backlash followed immediately. Some people alleged corruption by government officials, which prompted Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob to order an investigation into whether the funds were suitable for a project of that size.

Surachet Pravinvongvuth of the opposition Move Forward Party wrote on social media that changing the nameplate was unnecessary. 

“The station’s name should be easy for the people to remember, especially tourists. The ceremonial name should be only written in official documents,” Surachet wrote. “Is it suitable to do this? And if it is, is it too expensive? What will the people benefit from using tax money like this?”

#BangSueGrandStation has been trending on Twitter in Thailand in recent days.

A file photo of the Bang Sue Grand Station. Photo: The State Railway of Thailand

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