The futility of the NACC
The past two weeks have seen more details about high-level corruption emerge than any similar period in memory. There have been details of eye-watering amounts of bribery over foreign purchases of aircraft engines. Agents of the top state-run telephone and electricity suppliers received kickbacks for buying hundreds of kilometres of wire. The world's most respected graft watcher reported that 100 countries have less corruption than Thailand. Depressingly, it is clear for now that the agencies tasked with fighting corruption are dragging their feet.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha showed he will not use his office to pursue corruption suspects. Cases such as those involving outright bribery of Thai purchasing agents by Britain's Rolls-Royce and America's General Wire "are in the past". He waved away a current scandal that allowed a sweet-deal, no-bid contract to manage the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre to go to the country's multi-billionaire liquor tycoon.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs rushed to aid a senior government official caught stealing cheap art from a Japanese hotel, and "it will never happen again". The Royal Thai Police ruled the Bangkok chief of police is entitled to a monthly payment of 50,000 baht from the previously mentioned liquor tycoon because no regulation specifically bans such payments to moonlighting police who claim to be four-star "advisers".
The biggest disappointment, as it has been for years, is the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). As the leading graftbusters in the country ranked 101st least corrupt, the NACC has done little to justify itself. The commission's spokesman and secretary-general, Sansern Poljeak, said the NACC probably would not be able to proceed on the Rolls-Royce kickback cases. He lamented how difficult foreigners could be in divulging corruption information.
It was a surprising statement. The British justice system has issued a 53-page detailed summary on exactly when and how the Thai Airways International (THAI) bribery occurred. In fact, it came as a surprise that Banyong Pongpanich, a former member of the coup-installed National Anti-Corruption Committee, went public with criticism of the NACC. He said the NACC needs to take firm charge of big corruption cases, keep out other attention-seeking and intrusive agencies and bring graft cases to public and legal attention.
Good for Mr Banyong. He has effectively denounced the self-serving THAI and PTT Plc efforts to set up "investigative committees" into the Rolls-Royce bribes. He and the right-thinking public understand well that such committees serve, and indeed are usually intended to obfuscate, delay, mislead and ultimately dismiss corruption.
Anyone doubting this should re-read last week's report on the disgraceful cover-up by the Royal Thai Police (RTP) of the monthly pay packet slipped by Thai Beverage to Metropolitan Police Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathavorn. Such a claim by the RTP in the Sanit case is questionable.
In Kyoto, taxpayer funds went on a lawyer and translator for Suphat Saguandeekul, deputy director-general of the Department of Intellectual Property, who admitted to stealing and will face a disciplinary probe under the ministry. It is hoped those involved will deal with the matter in a straightforward way.
Mr Banyong is a voice worth attention. An NACC executive, he knows both first-hand and in general how truly ineffective the agency has been.
Since the military coup that promised crackdowns on corruption, the NACC has concluded only a single case -- the malfeasance investigation which led to the indictment of ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra. That is the very opposite of a war on corruption.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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