JJ market vendors rap SRT over ‘steep’ rent increases

Chatuchak Market, also known as JJ, is a world-famous tourist destination operating on land owned by the State Railway of Thailand. (Bangkok Post file photo by Narupon Hinshiranan)

State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is facing fresh accusations over irregularities in its 369-million-baht employment contract, which is believed to be leading to unusually high rents opposed by vendors at its Chatuchak weekend market.

Small-scale retailers recently shared complaints with a former member of the now-defunct National Reform Council, Paiboon Nititawan, who said he suspected the new space leasing rate which the SRT is applying to vendors may result from irregularities in the contract. He says these stem from the hiring of a firm to clean and remove garbage from the market.

An initial examination of the five-year contract made with the company on June 5, 2012 found “many irregularities”, Mr Paiboon, also chairman of the people’s reform network, said Wednesday. The wage paid to the firm is up to 11 times what City Hall spent for the same purpose in 2011, Mr Paiboon said.

City Hall earlier leased the Chatuchak weekend market from the SRT, but when its lease ended in 2012, the SRT took over the market’s management.

Mr Paiboon also questioned why the SRT awarded the contract to the company for five years, a move that appears to be blocking competitors from bidding for the job. In fact, he said, this type of contract should not last more than one year.

This may have a possible link with the higher rent which the vendors claim to be paying the SRT compared to what they paid City Hall, he said, adding the exorbitant rates currently affect more than 5,000 traders.

However, acting SRT governor Anon Luangboriboon denied the allegations made by both Mr Paiboon and the vendors.

He argued the leasing rate charged by his agency has been the same since 2012.

The vendors’ complaints may stem from their “overdue unpaid rent which has accumulated for six years”, Mr Anon said.

The acting SRT governor also defended its employment of the firm, insisting it was done following protocol. His agency had to hire the company on an “urgent basis” after City Hall abruptly stopped its management of the market, he said.

The monthly 4.3 million baht which the SRT pays to the company may be different from the cost incurred by City Hall because city officials had their own staff doing the job, Mr Anon said.

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