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  • #31
    If you've ever wondered,...........why it started but was never finished.

    Hopewell, the ‘ghost’ transport project still haunting Thailand 3 decades on

    A landmark ruling last month by the Constitutional Court has handed the Thai government a lifeline in its three-decade-old battle over the multibillion-baht Hopewell saga.

    On March 17, the court overturned the Supreme Administrative Court’s 2002 resolution on the statute of limitations for the Hopewell case.

    The court explained that the resolution was invalid because it had not been sent to Parliament for inspection or published in the Royal Gazette as required by the Constitution.

    The new ruling revives Thai authorities’ hopes of escaping a court order to pay Bt25.4 billion in compensation for the 1998 cancellation of the Bt80-billion elevated highway and railway project.

    For the past 23 years, the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) and Transport Ministry have been caught in legal wrangling with concessionaire Hopewell (Thailand) – a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based developer Hopewell Holdings.

    How it all began

    In November 1990, the Chatichai Choonhavan government awarded Hopewell a 30-year concession to build and operate a project to link Don Mueang Airport – Bangkok’s only international airport at the time – with the city.

    The contract was signed amid allegations of corruption and unusual land deals. Construction began even before ownership of the land was completely secured.

    Called the Bangkok Elevated Road and Train System, the project was designed as a 60-kilometre elevated construction incorporating a highway to Don Muang Airport, a main line for regular trains, and a light-rail line linking the airport and the city.


    With no clear schedule for completion, construction of the project started slowly in 1990 due to issues over land acquisition. Two years later, construction was suspended by the post-coup government led by Anand Panyarachun, before resuming later in the year when Chuan Leekpai took over.

    The project came to a halt again in August 1997 at the height of the Asian financial crisis. Only about 10 per cent complete, the Hopewell construction had been progressing so slowly that it earned the nickname “seven-generation project”. Its half-finished columns stand as eyesores to this day and are often referred to as “Thailand’s Stonehenge”.

    In January 1998, the second Chuan-led government formally cancelled the contract, citing repeated delays in the construction.

    Hopewell’s big boss – Hong Kong tycoon Gordon Wu – blamed Thailand’s political instability for slowing down the acquisition of land for the project.

    Thai officials, however, put the slow progress down to Hopewell’s lack of funds. Observers also pointed to the financial crisis as a key reason for the project’s collapse.

    Long legal fight

    Both Thai authorities and Hopewell demanded compensation and claimed rights over the project space, before finally entering the arbitration process in 2004. Hopewell sought Bt56 billion in damages while SRT demanded Bt200 billion.

    In November 2008, the arbitration tribunal ordered the SRT and Transport Ministry to pay Bt11.8 billion in compensation to Hopewell for “unfair contract termination”.

    The ministry and SRT then took their case to the Central Administrative Court, which in March 2014 annulled the arbitrators’ order.

    Hopewell appealed the verdict and the Supreme Administrative Court in April 2019 reversed the lower court’s ruling, ordering the state agencies to pay the compensation plus interest calculated at 7.5 per cent per annum, which came up to Bt25.4 billion.

    In July that year, both Thai agencies petitioned the Central Administrative Court to revive the case, citing new evidence and “missed facts”. The court dismissed the petition saying there were insufficient grounds for a retrial.

    In June 2020, SRT also asked the Central Administrative Court to revoke Hopewell’s 2010 business registration on grounds that the company exceeded the legal foreign-ownership limit. The move was aimed at voiding the deal between Hopewell and the two state agencies.

    A month later, the Supreme Administrative Court rejected the SRT and ministry’s appeal and upheld the lower court’s decision dismissing the request for retrial. The two state agencies were left facing the earlier order to compensate Hopewell.

    Bone of contention

    In November last year, the Ombudsman’s Office passed a petition from the two agencies to the Constitutional Court for a verdict on whether the 2002 statute of limitations ruling was constitutional. The ombudsman also asked the charter court to rule if it was in conflict with the 1999 Act of the Administrative Court’s Establishment and Administrative Case Proceedings.

    The verdict confirmed that Hopewell had sought the arbitration tribunal’s judgement within the statute of limitations.

    However, SRT and the Transport Ministry argued that the 1999 legislation governing the Administrative Court stated that “the case involving a dispute in relation to an administrative contract … shall be filed within five years from the date on which the cause of action is known or should have been known”.

    In its 2014 ruling in favour of the Thai government, the Central Administrative Court found that Hopewell had brought its case to the arbitration tribunal on November 24, 2004 – more than a year after the legal deadline. The court said the case should have been filed by January 30, 2003 – five years after the government cancelled the contract.

    The Supreme Administrative Court, however, disagreed and ruled in Hopewell’s favour, stating the statute of limitations should be counted from the time the court began operating in 2001.

    What comes next?

    One day after the Constitutional Court’s March 17 verdict, the Administrative Court stated that the Transport Ministry and SRT were still required to pay compensation to Hopewell as per the Supreme Administrative Court’s ruling but could seek a retrial.

    “They still have to comply with the verdict, but it depends on them whether they decide to seek a retrial,” said court spokesman Prawit Boonthiam.

    The court can also judge whether the Constitutional Court’s ruling constitutes “new evidence” that may warrant a retrial, Prawit added.

    Chief Ombudsman Viddhavat Rajatanun said the Constitutional Court’s ruling is indeed “new evidence” which requires a retrial.

    “With the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the Supreme Administrative Court’s resolution, which is a bone of contention, may not be enforced. This in turn could affect Hopewell’s case, as it may be deemed to have been filed after the statute of limitations expired,” he said.

    “However, whether the government does or does not pay compensation will depend on the Administrative Court’s judgement,” the ombudsman said.:

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


    • #32
      BTS management takes its debt dispute with BMA to YouTube

      Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTSC) has posted a video on YouTube, asking the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to repay the costs it had incurred running the Green Line extension.

      The BTSC has repeatedly demanded from the BMA repayment of the Bt30-billion debt it had incurred from operating the Green Line extension and related expenses since 2018. The payment was due on March 31.

      BTSC is a subsidiary of the SET-listed BTS Group Holdings Plc, and owns the Silom Line from National Stadium to the Taksin Bridge station, and the Sukhumvit route from Mor Chit to On Nut. The extensions of those two lines are owned by the BMA, which had hired BTSC to operate the service.

      Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang in February had said that the city administration did not have money to repay the debt.

      The video released on Friday had voiceover by BTS director Surapong Laoha-Unya.

      In thevideo, the Skytrain operator mentions the Bt30-billion debt, which includes over Bt9.6 billion in wages for operating the Green Line extension since 2018 and purchase of a train operating system worth over Bt20 billion.

      “The company has tried its best to show responsibility, as well as offer a solution for the problem. But it seems there are problems within problems, which the BTSC cannot tackle,” the director said in the video.

      Surapong also told the public that, “there are people who do not want this issue to be resolved so they create reasons to obstruct it, without caring about its effect on the future, especially on the general people.”

      In late January, the BTSC had threatened to suspend the train services unless the BMA paid its debt for operating the Green Line extension since 2018.:

      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


      • #33
        BMA halts construction of MRT Yellow Line after crane accident

        The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) ordered the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) to temporarily halt the construction of the Yellow Line train route on the Lat Phrao-Samrong section for seven days from April 14 after an April 13 accident injured a motorcyclist, Bangkok Governor Pol General Aswin Kwanmuang said on Thursday.

        The accident took place at around noon on Srinagarindra Road Soi 1 when a construction crane toppled to the road. The debris from the fall led to a motorcycle crash, with the rider sustaining a minor injury. He was sent to Lat Phrao hospital for treatment.

        There were no reports of damage to other property or equipment.According to the MRTA, the crane was installing an emergency walkway between the guideway beam of the elevated train route when a sling snapped and caused the crane to lose balance and fall.

        “The MRTA was asked to halt construction for seven days to fix the damage and ensure compliance with regulations on construction of public facilities as well as other safety standards,” Aswin said.

        “They will also have to compensate the victim and file a report with the BMA’s Public Works Department.”

        The MRT Yellow Line is an elevated mass rapid transit route linking Bangkok’s Lat Phrao to Samut Prakan province. The 30.4-kilometre-long line will have 23 stations and is planned to fully open in July 2023.:

        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


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