CCTV excuse won't wash

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) once again has done a disservice to its residents. As the public eagerly awaited footage from 11 closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed in areas near and around the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall and the Royal Plaza to find out who removed the memorial plague to the 1932 Siamese Revolution, City Hall yesterday simply came out to say that all the CCTV cameras in the areas had been removed for repair. Thus, there is no video footage available.

This is not the first time City Hall has failed to live up to the expectations of its residents when it comes to the need for images that it should have collected from CCTV cameras it has installed at different locations all across the city and that it should have stored in its database.

The BMA has installed 53,249 CCTV cameras in 50 districts, on streets, alleys and communities. Around 14,800 cameras are linked to the central control room at City Hall. The rest are standalone.

There have been numerous occasions when violent incidents called for footage from the city's CCTV cameras to verify what actually happened or who was involved in them, and the BMA could not provide it. Its cameras were either "not functioning" or "taken for repair" during the times when people relied on them the most for their safety.

The removal of the memorial plaque is believed to have taken place early this month, but the BMA happened to take all the cameras for repair on March 31.

The BMA made the announcement that the cameras in the area were not functioning amid growing calls from society to check the CCTV footage of the events leading to the disappearance of the plaque. The mystery surrounding the disappearance and the reluctance of the authorities to investigate the plaque's removal and replacement with a new one has kept all segments of Thai society guessing.

As the debate intensifies on the historical significance of the missing plaque to Thailand's history and who has the right to file a complaint with the police to kick-start a search operation, the bigger controversy is now the BMA's failure to keep this and other incidents monitored and recorded. Its ability to keep the city safe is thus being questioned.

Most people will probably not be surprised about the BMA's laughable assertion that the CCTV cameras were not functioning when the plaque was removed, given that they have heard similar answers before.

In the past the BMA used to claim that either cameras were not functioning or were still "dummy" cameras to fool potential criminals and prevent them committing crimes.

But what is more astonishing is that the 11 cameras were removed just days before the promulgation of the 2017 constitution by His Majesty the King which took place at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. With such a big event being eagerly watched by the entire nation and where leaders and prominent figures had gathered, the BMA still managed to remove the cameras.

The removal of the plaque has already become a politically hot issue. The police's reluctance to investigate has also raised eyebrows among many.

City Hall's excuses regarding the CCTV camera evidence only make matters worse. The BMA now risks being questioned over whether this is a matter of incompetence or just a reluctance to let the truth come out. Neither question serves it well.

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