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Key officials admit to need for more work to fight corruption

Feb 22. 2018
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THE GOVERNMENT’S graft buster and legal adviser have both conceded that the country was yet to perform well in fighting corruption, despite the slightly improved score and rank in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released on Wednesday.

Pol General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) president, said Thailand expects its score to improve to 50 in the index in the next few years by following the set national strategy. He said the latest score and rank only meant it had not yet reached the target, and more needed to be done. 

“We should reach a rating of 50 by 2021. We should help one another out,” he added.

The NACC would set up a subcommittee to analyse three sub-indexes with relatively low scores: political process; economy; and administration, Watcharapol said. Reacting to concerns that the drop in score was due to a lack of efficiency in scrutinising corruption among government employees, Watcharapol said no country was able to thoroughly investigate corruption. “However, everything should be gradually improved once things become legally ‘untied’,” he said.

Watcharapol claimed that the government’s “seriousness in fighting corruption” and enforcement of the “anti-graft” charter would be key factors in contributing to overall increased scores in the future. 

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam, the government’s prime legal advisor, admitted that democracy and rule of law may have contributed to the evaluation on Thailand. “It’s not about whether the government is satisfied or not,” the deputy PM said. “We’ll assign the Justice Ministry and the national anti-corruption command centre to fix the remaining weaknesses.”

The deputy PM dismissed the scandal over Deputy PM General Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury watches as contributing to the CPI.

He said in a separate interview that it was up to Prawit to decide whether he should step down from the board of directors of the Centre for National Anti-Corruption (CNAC).

Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, said that the slight improvement in Thailand’s score meant much remained to do to fight corruption.

The key points in Thailand’s corruption issues are: patronage system, bribery, lack of good governance in the bureaucratic system and obstruction of access to public information, making it harder for public scrutiny of the government sector.

One area of improvement for the Thai government is it has facilitated and simplified processes with the private and people sectors, with fewer complications, eliminating the need to pay “tea money” to officials.

“However, law enforcement, prosecution of wrongdoers and discretion of people in power remain weak points of the country [in terms of corruption],” Mana said in his Facebook post.

The global coalition against corruption, Transparency International, this year ranked Thailand at 96th, improving from 101st place last year, with a score of 37. The index ranks 180 countries and territories by perceived levels of public-sector corruption over the past year. Nine key assessments are used to compile the index, including the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey. 

National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) secretary-general Worawit Sukboon said Thailand’s score had dropped in three assessments involving politics and democracy. Its score rose slightly in three other indexes and remained the same in two more, while Thailand was not assessed for one index. 

For instance, the Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation Index gave Thailand a score of 37, three points lower than last year. Worawit said this assessment likely reflected the perception about investigation of corruption cases “close to the government”; case disclosure, political participation, and press freedom remain weak points although the government had restored and maintained peace and order. 

The World Justice Project’s (WJP) Rule of Law Index, on the contrary, gave Thailand 40 points, given the country’s official stance against corruption and recent efforts to suppress corruption via new mechanisms, including creation of a special corruption court, said Worawit. Worldwide, this year’s index found that the majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending |corruption.


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