In a radio interview with the Nation Group, Wallop insisted much of the luggage was dried foods and fruits that a local temple's disciples had asked him to bring back, a "normal request" that he claimed was often treated with leniency when it came to weight limits.
However, a spokesman for Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen said he could not confirm whether the shipment had arrived.
Phra Maha Noi told The Nation that temple followers brought in large amounts of donated materials every day and that it was difficult to keep track of what arrived when or was brought in by whom.
In the radio interview, Wallop said he carried only six bags of his own but that some 30 boxes earmarked for the temple had been loaded onto the flight with his approval.
The boxes were allegedly deposited in Lost and Found at Suvarnabhumi Airport, in order to evade customs duties. However, a THAI staff member who works at the airport has claimed the boxes were hurriedly moved out of there.
Although Wallop claimed in the interview that the document from Narita Airport detailing the controversial shipment was a fake, he said he was not interested in taking legal action over it.
"I don't know what I would achieve from filing a lawsuit even though I know who was responsible for it," Wallop said, adding that he was prepared to face any investigation.
The THAI labour union ratcheted up pressure on him yesterday, repeating its call for an immediate probe into what it said was an unethical practice that damaged the company's reputation.
"Since the alleged wrongdoer is someone on the board, it's imperative the board chairman take immediate action on the matter," said union leader Jamsri Sukchotirat.
The issue has threatened to snowball, with Wallop launching a stinging attack on THAI president Piyasvasti Amranand in yesterday's radio interview.
Asked what he thought was behind the allegations, Wallop replied: "Politics. I joined the board under the Transport Ministry's quota, while the other side came from the Finance Ministry. He always thinks this company should be under the Finance, not the Transport, Ministry. He has been trying to undermine me ever since before he came."
Asked if he was referring to Piyasvasti, Wallop said: "Yes. He's been giving interviews about that."
THAI BOARD CHAIRMAN DISPUTES LUGGAGE ALLEGATIONS
Wallop has said he was deeply distressed by abuse-of-power allegations regarding his luggage on a recent THAI flight.
And he did not hide his emotions in an interview yesterday with the Nation Group's Somroutai Sapsomboon and Padungsak Laokitpaisal for the "Trong Praden Kap Krungthep Turakij" radio programme on Working Station FM 102. Excerpts:
- How many bags did you take on that November 14 flight from Japan?
My own bags totalled six, about the same as I always take with me. The rest I think were dried fruits and other foods that disciples of Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen's abbot asked me to carry back for him. When it comes to merit-making, I can never say no.
- How many bags were there for the temple?
To tell you the truth, I don't know. I boarded the plane before they loaded the stuff into them. But it should not have been more than 30 boxes. They were boxes, not bags. I don't get this kind of request very often.
Did those 30 boxes exceed the weight limit?
If you count everything together, then certainly. But honestly, since I joined THAI 27 years ago, we've had this tradition of mutual assistance and leniency. People in a position to grant approval for overweight luggage do so all the time. And when powerful people in this country travel abroad, they often bring back foods and fruits, particularly after visiting Japan.
- But there are allegations this latest lot was turned in to Lost and Found so as to avoid customs duties
No, not at all. Everything came through in a normal manner. There is clear evidence for that, I can guarantee you.
And anyway, being put in Lost and Found cannot spare one from paying custom duties. There's no way to avoid going through customs.
- How did the 30 boxes leave the airport?
Temple personnel picked them up. They were waiting there.
- There are allegations some of the goods went to a shop your wife owns in Soi Lalaisap off Silom Road
They can say whatever they like, but the truth is my wife owns only a small 2-x-3 metre stall that sells handicrafts. She's been doing that for 10 years, and the goods being sold are only small things from Japan.
- What do you think is behind these systematic allegations?
Politics. I joined the board under the Transport Ministry's quota, while the other side came from the Finance Ministry. He always thinks this company should be under the Finance, not the Transport, Ministry. He has been trying to undermine me ever since before he came.
- Are you referring to THAI president Piyasvasti Amranand?
Yes. He's been giving interviews about that.
- That's what you think is behind the |allegations?
Yes. Another factor could be internal politics. This company experiences both external and internal politics.
- We've heard you've revamped company rules on how contracts are made.
I revamped a lot of that, from purchasing small items to hiring freelance workers. It's helped save around Bt100 million. On crew accommodation in London, I managed to save Bt700 million annually.
I will never hurt THAI. But if others come with an agenda other than doing the best for this company, there will always be these kinds of conflicts, because this is a very big organisation. It's hard enough to make each department go in the same direction, so if those in management positions cannot go the same way, there's no chance of survival.
- The executives came from different places, so how can they agree on a direction?
Well, there's some injustice here. Most top executives receive monthly salaries of Bt100,000-plus and must be responsible for about Bt200 billion, whereas the new president, who knew nothing when he joined, receives Bt900,000 a month. Do you think that's fair? I don't think so.
- There's been talk of executives' perks being partly to blame for the poor state of the company.
I don't think so. Those have been toned down a lot. The quota of 15 free tickets a year has been reduced to seven, for example. Meeting fees are only about Bt50,000 per month. Executives' salaries are capped at Bt200,000.
Retired board members used to get 75-per-cent lifetime ticket discounts, but that privilege has been changed to only three years after retirement.