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Legislators back down over publishing politicians’ complete assets

Nov 29. 2017
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AFTER EXTENSIVE criticism, legislators have backtracked and amended the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) organic bill, stipulating that the agency publish complete information regarding the assets and liabilities of political office holders as well as high-ranking officials, including the Constitutional Court judges, said charter drafter Pattara Khampitak yesterday.

A previous clause required the NACC to publish only a brief report about its scrutiny of assets, prompting widespread criticism that it would weaken the public’s role in checking politicians and government officials. 

In a public seminar organised by Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) yesterday, Pattara said the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), which was responsible for the draft, did not intend to weaken the battle against corruption. 

However, the previous stipulation stemmed from the CDC’s belief that the law had to fit with new and changing circumstances, he said.Pattara Khampitak

Publishing comprehensive information would not be entirely fair to people involved, Pattara said, adding that publicly available information had been exploited and got people into trouble unnecessarily. 

Additionally, the NACC could not remove published information from circulation, which would be illegal, he said. 

That was not fair for individuals who had to declare their assets, so the stipulation had allowed them to keep some details private, the legislator said. 

NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon said it was unnecessary to publish the entire detailed lists of assets and liabilities, citing similar cases involving trouble associated with reporting. Worawit Sukboon

He added that public participation in scrutinising assets would not be diminished regardless of the completeness of reports. The public and the media could still monitor behaviour that indicated an individual was concealing unusual wealth and assets, he said. 

Jermsak Pinthong, a former legislator who previously exposed NACC officials attempting to raise their own salaries, said he still preferred that exhaustive lists be made available to the public to ensure transparency.

Given his history with the NACC, Jermsak said he did not trust the body. There were no guarantees that officials would not turn out to be biased and help conceal assets, he said.

The critic said politicians and senior officials had to make sacrifices to hold the privileges associated with their positions, and privacy and other rights were included. Jermsak Pinthong

Sanoh Sukcharoen, an editor at the investigative news agency Isara, said in the past many corruption cases had been exposed because the NACC had published asset lists.

All the information was valuable and could expose corrupt politicians, he said. 

For instance, Isara once exposed a politician hiding assets after investigating the address listed as his home and found that people holding assets were the politician’s servants, Sanoh said.

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