Thais deserve a clean House

Thais deserve a clean House

In less than a month, parliament has been rocked by two bribery scandals which have shaken public confidence in an institution that is supposed to be a fundamental part of the nation's checks and balances mechanism.

The latest scandal came to light after audio leaked implicating outspoken politician Mongkolkit Suksintharanon, leader of Thai Civilized Party, with a request for a 12-million-baht bribe by a CCTV company executive installing the devices as part of the Education Ministry's Safe Zone Schools project. In a clip obtained by parliamentarians and some media outlets, Mr Mongkolkit is allegedly heard attempting to extort the sum in exchange for help in preventing the publication of negative news about the company.

Mr Mongkolkit admitted that the voice was his but claimed the audio was "doctored and aimed at discrediting" him and was also made a long time ago.

The party leader was adamant that the conversation in the record was part of his job to infiltrate a corrupt group to get hold of useful information that he would send to fact-finding bodies. He vowed to sue anyone to accuse him of corruption but stopped short of saying whether his "undercover" work had yielded any productive results.

Social activist Srisuwan Janya yesterday filed a complaint with the NACC against the Thai Civilized Party leader over the allegations.

The CCTV scandal follows a complaint by a senior state official about attempted extortion by politicians in a House panel vetting the 2021 budget. Sakda Wichiensilp, chief of the Groundwater Resources Department, alleged that the MPs, whose names he withheld, had demanded five million baht to back a budget for water projects proposed by his agency. Mr Sakda also claimed to have audio proof of his allegation.

In addition to these two notorious cases, there have been complaints that extortion and bribery are rampant in the legislative branch of power.

Parliament has asked the National Anti-Corruption Commission to look into the five-million-baht extortion case. Yet, three weeks have been passed without any progress. Such silence prompts valid concerns to arise that whitewashing is already underway. Santi Prompat, deputy finance chairman, has already ruled out any possibility of graft by the panel.

Without any pressure to act, parliament seems to have only lukewarm enthusiasm towards ensuring its own integrity.

In the budget case, House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, who is also a chief adviser to the Democrat Party, has distanced himself from the beginning, dismissing calls for a probe. The veteran politician said were parliament to take up the case, there might be accusations of partiality. Ridiculous as it may seem, such a claim has sent the wrong signal to the public -- that he and other parliamentarians would rather tolerate accusations of malpractice than investigate them.

When presiding over the House opening last year, Mr Chuan told MPs that politicians must work hard to prove that the legislative institution was relevant and that members of the public can rely on it, after years under a military regime.

Therefore the House, and speaker in particular, should do more to convince us all that it takes graft among MPs seriously, perhaps by facilitating a fact-finding process, the results of which could be provided to the NACC investigation.

These failures to take a proactive approach hint that Mr Chuan, and the House in general, are content with merely paying lip service to accusations of malpractice.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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