Sid Harta Publishers
Codename Dredge By Tony May Published by Sid Harta, Australia ## Price: Bt Available at Asia Books Reviewed by Jim Pollard Canadian engineer Tony May?s first-hand experiences of corruption, while working on a notorious contract to build several dredges for the Thai government in the late 1990s, are the basis for ?Codename Dredge?. May?s book is a fictionalised account of a real-life scandal that?s been documented in Matichon and Thailand?s English-language papers in recent years. May, in Bangkok recently to promote his book, said he was the construction manager on a US$50-million (Bt2-billion) joint project between an American firm and the Harbour Department to build four dredges. The author said only one of the dredges ended up getting built after a drawn-out saga that ended with a handful of local officials on corruption charges and May forced to live overseas, partly because of threats he allegedly received. As a writer, Tony May is a good engineer. But the appeal of this slim book is that it?s largely based on fact. It?s a timely item to read, given the rampant corruption under the current administration at places like the new airport ? and probably right across the entire spectrum of government, because it shows how dodgy schemes can spiral out of control, becoming ludicrously complex, time-consuming and pathetic. May, now 61, details being caught in messy business dealings caused partly by his arrogant and na?ve American boss ? who infuriated local builders by shopping around for better deals, despite agreements already reached ? and the corrupt schemes of local agents and government officials. In the middle of it all, May began taping the calls to all and sundry ? to protect himself if things got badly out of control. He later handed over these tapes to the US Justice Department, which he said was interested in the affair because Washington had provided a training grant of some $400,000 to help facilitate the deal, and a quarter of that was allegedly siphoned on for purposes other than intended. Transcripts of the recordings were later passed onto the Thai Justice Department, May said. ?I knew things were not going right, and the only way to cover myself was taping all phone calls between myself and the Harbour Department and the Thai agency [allegedly bribing officials on behalf of his company]. And I probably ended up with three to four hours of phone conversations.? To its credit, the Thaksin government did pursue the case after it first came to power five years ago, May said. The Anti-Money Laundering Office raided the home of the head of the Harbour Department and found a bundle of cash and several BMWs. But the deal had to be cancelled and cost Thailand Bt2 billion, he said. The book ends with a murder, which never happened. The names of key players and the American firm have been changed, but otherwise the story is largely as happened, May said. Reading ?Codename Dredge?, you get an idea of the sorts of schemes going on in most government departments these days, and why Suvarnabhumi Airport is taking much longer to build than it should. More such books are needed.
Staying alive in a strange land isn't always easy... Read more about “Codename Dredge”