So what's so hard about transparency?

So what's so hard about transparency?

Facebook posts like this have been spurred almost entirely by citizen journalists. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Facebook posts like this have been spurred almost entirely by citizen journalists. (Bangkok Post file photo)

For law-abiding Thais living under the "peace and order" regime, what should annoy us the most?

The ever-growing array of expensive watches seen on the wrist of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon? (The origins of which remain unexplained despite an official inquiry by the national graft-busting agency.)

The exotic pink Hermes bag in the hands of fugitive former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, which seems to signal how she is enjoying the high life in London where she was recently photographed outside Harrods after fleeing Thailand on corruption charges?

Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist, Bangkok Post.

Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang, the former leader of the now-defunct yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy, who said he could not afford to pay damages of more than 500 million baht incurred by the group's closure of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports 10 years ago? He also insists he has done nothing wrong.

Or how about the National Anti-corruption Commission (NACC)? One month after Gen Prawit's watch scandal broke, the panel came out late last week to tell the public ... nothing.

The graft-fighting agency refused to say how many luxury watches Gen Prawit had confessed to owning, how he came to acquire them or why the pricey items were not included in his assets declaration.

The NACC also gave the embattled deputy PM two more weeks to clarify his undeclared belongings.

While the anti-corruption crusader seems to have produced no results regarding the scandal, nor has it shown the public any investigative ability, the social media vigilante CSI LA has pointed to as many as 17 luxury watches worth more than 20 million baht having been seen on the Gen Prawit's wrist.

The CSI LA Facebook page has been the main source of information on the watches scandal. It also just launched what it called a Thailand 4.0-style anti-graft campaign.

Harnessing the power of crowd-sourcing, the page has asked people to scour the internet or YouTube to find images of Gen Prawit wearing watches.

They can send the images to the page via a mobile app it developed so the administrator can again use the power of the crowd to identify the timepiece in question.

For some members of the public, the anonymous Facebook page seems more effective -- definitely more vigilant -- than the national graft-buster in fighting corruption.

While the page seeks to shed light on the scandal, finding relevant information and bringing it out for all to see, the NACC seems to prefer keeping the matter under wraps.

Is there any reason why the NACC must keep Gen Prawit's explanation about his undeclared belongings a secret?

If it is generally agreed that nothing beats corruption better than transparency, why is the leading graft-busting agency doing the opposite?

One has to wonder why the NACC is not engaging the public into joining its campaign against corruption. Why didn't the agency ask people to help it find more watches worn by Gen Prawit instead of letting an anonymous Facebook page do the job?

The same is true with the case of fugitive former PM Yingluck, who seems to have been spotted frequently in London.

After another photo of Ms Yingluck posing outside Harrods surfaced online, agencies ranging from the Foreign Ministry to the Police Department and Office of the Attorney-General are still dithering about how they have tried to bring her to justice.

But the truth is that any proof of Ms Yingluck's presence in another country is testament to how ineffectual Thai "law and order" is and how double-standards can be found in the system.

It could be this assumption that anything is possible when you are rich or in power that led the yellow shirts to storm the airports to force then-prime minister Somchai Wongsawat to step down.

Indeed, isn't it faith in the fickleness of law and order in this country that has led people to block off Ratchaprasong intersection, shut down Bangkok or stage a coup to topple government after government?

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha frequently insists he is here to maintain order and that the rule of law must be seen to prevail.

For that to happen, transparency must be the name of the game.

It is not too late to start with the watches. Tell all, and there may be hope for better times.

Atiya Achakulwisut

Columnist for the Bangkok Post

Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.

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