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Scope of anti-graft penalties widened

Jul 14. 2015
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SEVERE penalties – including execution – can now be handed down to not only civil servants but all state officials involved in corruption such as taking or offering bribes, according to a member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission.
Vicha Mahakun clarified confusing points in the latest amendment to the NACC’s anti-corruption laws at a press conference yesterday.
The Royal Gazette published the third amendment of the Constitution Organic Law on Counter Corruption 2015 on Thursday. It took effect last Friday.
Seven extra sections were added to Article 13 under the Act, from Article 123/2 to 123/8, listing types of corrupt acts or wrongdoing, plus penalties such as seizing assets from state officials found guilty of graft.
Vicha said severe penalties, including execution under the third amendment, were copied from those stated in Article 149 of the Criminal Code. The difference was that from now on the penalties would not be set only for civil servants, but for all kinds of “state officials” who had state power but were found corrupt, be they prime minister, ministers, down to officials at local organisations.
In addition, this third amendment extended penalties to foreign state officials and officers of foreign organisations – meaning if they took or called for bribes, they could also face the same penalties, Vicha said.
He said the new provision in this amendment was that for the first time it extended penalties to those guilty of bribery, especially companies caught bribing state officials in return for their favours. This, he said, could help close a previous legal loophole that often let them off the hook.
Under this amendment, if an accused has fled, the time he or she has left to serve would not take into account a statute of limitations set for a criminal offence up to 20 years. Or in other words, Vicha explained, there would be no time limit for legal procedures against corruption.
“We have always considered that corruption is dangerous to the country, and that’s why we have applied [such high] penalties. This time it is no different and that’s why we have written the law in such a way,” said the NACC commissioner.
Vicha said the law’s amendment this time would make Thailand’s effort to get rid of corruption modern, like any other civilised country. He said the amendment followed the will addressed in the interim charter, as well as the commitment that Thailand has had with the United Nations Convention against Corruption since its ratification in 2003.
He said all corruption cases under the NACC’s investigation from now on would fall under this amendment. But it was not yet certain whether it would be applied retroactively to cases under court deliberations, or to cases that have received a court’s verdict but the defendants are on the run.
Among those included was the corruption case concerning the former prime minister “who is still on the run”, he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said in a news briefing after the Cabinet meeting yesterday that Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha had requested quicker investigations of transferred high-ranking civil servants in order to avoid public scepticism.
Prayut had earlier used his authority under Article 44 of the interim constitution his junta imposed last year to move some civil servants with the ranks of C8 and higher to other positions, as they were considered potential corruptors. His action came after he received reports from the NACC, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Office of the Auditor-General.
Prayut had been concerned over the sensitivity of the investigations, Sansern added, so he originally had not wished to hurry them. However, the PM said yesterday that he wished them “not to be too slow” to avoid public doubts over the investigations.

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