Bribery rank set to worsen

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

Thai­land re­turned to the spot­light for the wrong rea­son again last week as a new re­port on cor­rup­tion ranked it as the third-worst coun­try in the world in terms of bribery af­ter In­dia and Viet­nam. The rank­ing by in­de­pen­dent watch­dog Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional (TI) is based on a sur­vey con­ducted be­tween July 2015 and Jan­uary 2017 on 21,800 re­spon­dents in 16 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries across the Asia-Pacific.

It has since cap­tured the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion both off­line and on­line, with ne­ti­zens cir­cu­lat­ing it widely us­ing their re­spec­tive on­line chan­nels and net­works.

The ini­tial re­port, re­leased in Jan­uary, showed that Thai­land’s po­si­tion — when mea­sured for cor­rup­tion in gen­eral — had shot from 76th in 2015 to 101st out of 176 coun­tries in 2016.

Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha in­sisted the re­sults re­flect the im­pact of pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions.

In the more elab­o­rate re­port, many Thais ad­mit­ted to pay­ing bribes for ba­sic ser­vices. Some 46% said they had bribed the po­lice in the last 12 months while 35% ad­mit­ted to brib­ing pub­lic schools, of­ten to guar­an­tee place­ments for their kids.

This will come as scant sur­prise to many Thais, who are born into a great coun­try where bribery is not only en­demic but has for cen­turies been built into the very fab­ric of so­ci­ety.

But the strong re­ac­tion from the pub­lic, at least to a de­gree, seem­ingly re­flects peo­ple’s frus­tra­tion with the slow pace of sev­eral high-pro­file bribery cases re­cently.

One of these would be the Rolls-Royce scan­dal that erupted in the wake of an ac­tion by the UK Se­ri­ous Fraud Of­fice. The Bri­tish luxury car maker was or­dered in Jan­uary to pay £671 mil­lion for pay­ing bribes to land ex­port con­tracts. Two state en­ter­prises in Thai­land were al­legedly in­volved.

Thai­land’s Na­tional Anti-Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion (NACC) launched a probe to in­ves­ti­gate but crit­ics slammed it for pro­ceed­ing slug­gishly. The same in­er­tia can be seen in the “tea-money” probe into whether the head­mas­ter of the pres­ti­gious Sam­sen­wit­tay­alai School was in­volved in ac­cept­ing bribes for stu­dent place­ments.

Some other scan­dals since swept un­der the rug in­volve the re­la­tions of Gen Prayut, es­pe­cially his younger brother Gen Preecha, the former per­ma­nent sec­re­tary of de­fence.

Gen Preecha, who now serves as a mem­ber of the coupin­stalled Na­tional Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly, is be­lieved to have pulled strings to land his son a job at the De­fence Min­istry with­out him hav­ing to take a re­cruit­ment test.

Mean­while, an­other of his sons man­aged to ac­quire lu­cra­tive con­struc­tion projects for the 3rd Re­gion Army, which Gen Preecha once com­manded.

Even the es­cape of Red Bull scion-turned-in­ter­na­tion­alfug it iv eV orayu th“Boss” Yoovid­hya inr ela­tion to a fa­tal hi­tand-run case dat­ing back to 2014 has fu­eled pub­lic con­cern that wealthy fam­i­lies rule the roost and pos­si­bly bribe the au­thor­i­ties to look the other way and drag their heels while jus­tice is not served.

In the “Boss” case, most of the charges against the sus­pect have ex­pired as he con­tin­ues to live a life of luxury over­seas.

As such, the Prayut regime should pre­pare to see Thai­land re­ceive an even lower score when the TI churns out its next rat­ings. The list will in­clude an ex­tra sec­tion called Va­ri­eties of Democ­racy (VDEM) fol­low­ing a World Bank study on the need to pro­mote democ­racy, which does not bode well for how the king­dom will score.

The ex­ces­sive use of Sec­tion 116, also known as the sedi­tion law, in curb­ing free­dom of ex­pres­sion has al­ready put the regime in a bad light. Other cases sug­gest abuses of power and at­tempts to muz­zle new­shounds and crit­ics — mean­ing Thai­land looks fated to crash and burn in the VDEM cat­e­gory.

The lat­est case in­volved an Isara re­porter who faced pros­e­cu­tion for prob­ing the con­cealed wealth of a well-con­nected Na­tional Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly (NLA) mem­ber.

So it will be an­other red face for Gen Prayut. Ex­cept this time he won’t have the luxury of blam­ing his pre­de­ces­sors.

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