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Chula unveils ‘marketing’ strategy to encourage Thais to join anti-corruption battle

Jan 27. 2021
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By The Nation

A Chulalongkorn University research team has unveiled a new strategy to beat corruption in Thailand.

“The right communications strategy for Thai citizens 4.0 to counter corruption” is the fruit of more than a year’s research by lecturers at Chula’s Economics Faculty and Business School (CBS) and uses a marketing approach to the problem.

It aims to encourage citizens to join anti-graft efforts and comes with an indicator to evaluate the anti-corruption level of individuals.

(From left)  Asst. Prof. Dr. Ake Pattaratanakun, Dr. Mingsan Khaosaard, Asst. Prof. Dr. Torplus Yomnak

Asst Prof Torplus Yomnak, who led the research, explained that up until now, corruption studies had used an issue-centric rather than actor-centric approach, while anti-corruption policies and mechanisms had followed the top-down model. This had resulted in lower social participation in the fight against corruption, he said.

Instead, the Chula research uses a marketing model to target citizens with its graft-busting message.

“This is the first time an attempt has been made to change the anti-corruption research methodology based on social, cultural and psychological factors,” said Torplus. “In the past, researchers used demographic factors such as career, gender, age and income, rather than segmentation of people by different lifestyles.”

The researchers focused on existing civil society networks like the Anti-corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) and the Isranews Agency, which demonstrate that citizens are the most important mechanism to tackle fraud and corruption. They asked how these networks could be rapidly expanded. The answer they found was to identify target groups and encourage them to become active citizens who investigate the truth.

The team categorised “targets” according to six criteria – personal norms, chances of involvement in corruption, acceptance of power inequality, group adherence, avoidance of uncertainty, and masculinity.

A nationwide survey then classified the targets into four groups: The Frontline – citizens who believe they can solve the problems by their actions; The Exemplar – citizens who want to counter corruption but don’t participate in suppression; The Mass – citizens who don’t like corruption but don’t participate in anti-corruption efforts; and The Individualist – citizens who don’t pay attention to nor participate in anti-corruption efforts.

The Frontline [Very anti-corruption/join anti-corruption efforts/obey laws and regulations]

The Exemplar [Very anti-corruption/defend against corruption/anti-bribery/believe in common interest]The Mass [Somewhat anti-corruption/low-level participation in anti-graft efforts/can be corrupted/believe in common interest less than first two groups]The Individualist [More tolerant of corruption/don’t join anti-corruption efforts/don't care about regulations/interested in personal benefits]

Further research found that citizens with low personal norms and high masculinity also have a low anti-corruption bias.

A campaign designed to encourage awareness and attitudes about gender equality in terms of capability and acceptance of career and duties, among others, could be a means to promote anti-corruption thinking, said the researchers.

The team also created an indicator to measure anti-corruption efforts based on four aspects: awareness of problems, prevention, persistence and suppression. This indicator will become a tool for future research on anti-corruption efforts.

Team member Asst Prof Ake Pattaratanakun said the research will enable policymakers to use anti-corruption budget more efficiently by targeting groups like the Frontline and the Exemplar.

Prof Mingsan Khaosaard, who leads the Spearhead Strategic Plan on Social Aspects: Khon Thai 4.0, which supported the research, said that anti-corruption is a crucial factor affecting happiness and thus a goal of Khon Thai 4.0.

Mingsan suggested that social media including YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook will play a key role in promoting the new concept and model among the target groups.

Meanwhile, relevant state agencies should change their communications strategy from “hard-sell” to lifestyle marketing via campaigns that encourage awareness and change attitudes on gender equality, said the researchers.

They expect the new knowledge to serve as a guideline to enhance efficiency of complaint mechanisms and good governance of state agencies including the Comptroller General’s Department, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission and the State Audit Office.

Thailand dropped to 101st place in Transparency International's 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index.

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