Corruption in Thailand
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Despite the government's efforts to combat corruption in the country, former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government was implicated in a rice-pledging scheme for corruption. Ms. Yingluck may face criminal charges over the scheme's failures. However, the independence of the organization which has implicated her has been questioned by international media.
So ubiquitous is corruption in Thailand that in 2015 the Thai group, Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand (ACT), created a "Museum of Thai Corruption" at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. According to Mr Mana Nimitmongkol of ACT, "Thailand is a country with a culture of patronage... many generations have seen corruption and got used to it,...We wanted to create the museum in order to tell the cheaters that the things they have done are evil—they will be recorded in the history of Thailand, and Thai people will never forget, nor forgive them."
The intersection of business and government has resulted in a widespread use of bribes in most sectors across the country. Bribery and conflict of interests are common within Thailand's private and public sectors. Money politics in Thailand, the "flow of money within the political scene", stems from the high number of interconnects between the business and political sectors. Despite anti-corruption laws, the government bureaucracy is ineffective in enforcing them.
In a survey conducted by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce among businessmen who deal with bureaucrats who determine contract awards, 25 percent plus is the average for under-the-table fees paid in order to secure a contract from government agencies. The survey showed that 78 percent of the businessmen polled admitted that they had to pay "fees", which they said appeared to have been increasing in recent years. Some businessmen claimed that the rate charged by the greedier gatekeepers for contracts run as high as 40 percent.
Military junta takes on corruption
On 2 June 2014, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared "war on corruption".Prayut has made the issue one of the focus areas of his premiership. The first time he spoke on his weekly TV program "Returning Happiness to the People" in August 2014, he described corruption as "deeply-rooted in Thai society,..."
Thailand has no lack of governmental agencies charged with combating corruption. It has seven: the Election Commission; the Office of the Auditor-General of Thailand; the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission; the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC); the Royal Thai Police (RTP); the Department of Special Investigation; and the Office of the Attorney-General. Prayut has said he would like to see more integration and cooperation among the agencies.
The junta has often spoken of the need to clean up corruption, not only among the nation's politicians, but society at large. While there have been a handful of high-profile arrests of those accused of corruption or human trafficking, officials have focused largely on small-scale public-order issues, such as banning sunbed rentals on public beaches or clearing vendors from some Bangkok sidewalks.
Prayut has taken credit for stamping out corruption and blames the poor economy on his success: "Today the economy is slowing down because previously everybody had money to spend," Prayut said on 5 June 2015 in a nationally televised speech. "But now we have a problem,... It's because some people spend money from illegal businesses and money from fraud. Now the government has come to set things right, causing that money to disappear."
"What the army has done...is ramp up on anti-corruption rhetoric, and part of that is to explain away why the economy has been performing below potential....There is little evidence on the policy front that the army government has made much progress in making state enterprises or the civil service more accountable to the public." said Ambika Ahuja, a London-based analyst at Eurasia Group, a political-risk adviser. Blaming corruption is standard practice for Thailand's military takeovers, Ambika said. "Every army government uses it as one of the reasons, if not the main reason, for launching a coup. It justifies a takeover." Ahuja's views were borne out in November 2015, when a media storm erupted over alleged corruption in the Rajabhakti Park project in Hua Hin.
The Office of the Public Sector's Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) announced plans in November 2015 to publish a handbook on corruption investigation procedures in a bid to shorten the investigation process. Director of PACC Sector 4 Police Lieutenant Colonel Wannop Somjintanakul, announced that Mahidol University, Rangsit University and other anti-corruption agencies are co-authoring the handbook. Mr. Sanyapong Limprasert, a law professor from Rangsit University, said the handbook is expected to set the same standards for all corruption cases and reduce the time involved in investigations. It is also intended to serve as a guideline for the authorities whenever they consider taking legal action against any individual suspected of corruption. The handbook is scheduled to be published in May 2016.
2016 crackdown on corruption
In December 2015 the Thai government announced a crackdown on "...corrupt 'people of influence'".. At the behest of Prime Minister Prayut, the police, intelligence agencies, and the Interior Ministry have compiled a list of persons to be targeted. Prawit says the names will be "verified" and in February-March 2016 the crackdown will commence.
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