Thu, January 20, 2022

perspective

Prayut carrying burden of anti-corruption fight


In the absence of oversight normally provided by democratic institutions, PM must lead from the front  

In an event held to mark International Anti-Corruption Day last Friday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha called on all parties to join forces in the fight against this national scourge. He emphasised the importance of raising public understanding of Thai society’s problem with graft, and the need to foster an anti-corruption culture among citizens.
It’s not the first time Prayut has targeted this enemy within. He announce last year at a government conference on anti-graft policy that “organised corruption” was an insidious threat to the country – not only to national security and our immediate financial position, but also to long-term economic and social development.
“Corruption – the abuse of public office for personal gain – can manifest in many shapes and forms,” Prayut declared in his speech. “Public office is abused when an official accepts, solicits or extorts a bribe, and when private agents give or offer bribes to avoid compliance with rules and regulations, for profit and advantage over their competitors. But public office can also be abused through patronage and nepotism, theft of state assets, or diversion and misuse of state budgets.” 
He pointed out that Thailand had made progress in the fight against simpler forms of graft. But deep-seated, organised political and systemic corruption still threatened to paralyse the nation: “The link between money and politics and the capture of state institutions by powerful interests at the national and local levels is the most dangerous enemy.”
Those words demonstrate the prime minister is well aware of the scope of abuse by corrupt officeholders who collude with unscrupulous private-sector actors to drain state budgets. Prayut also appears to recognise the role patronage and nepotism play in strangling efficient governance and the national development it brings.
The junta chief has so far avoided the taint of several relatively small-scale corruption scandals that have embroiled those around him. As leader in this graft battle, he must ensure his team, especially Cabinet members, keep their hands clean. 
So far, the apparent absence of large-scale corruption cases involving the junta-led government has been reflected in the country’s rising transparency ranking. Last year Thailand climbed nine places to 76th among 168 countries ranked by Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index. Yet allegations of patronage and nepotism among the powers-that-be still linger. Authorities are also being dogged by claims of irregularities in government projects, notably the purchase of new buses for the Transport Ministry’s Bangkok Mass Transit Authority.
In the absence of the House of Representatives, the task of scrutinising government has fallen to the National Legislative Assembly, but it has shown little interest in monitoring for irregularities. The job has been taken up instead mainly by the media and anti-corruption activist groups.
Prayut’s government came to power without a popular mandate through an election – a fact that the prime minister has acknowledged. Operating without normal democratic checks and balances, it now falls to Prayut to ensure that his government’s projects drive national development rather than redirect public funds into corrupt pockets. 

Published : December 14, 2016

By : The Nation