Govt ethics must be clear

Govt ethics must be clear

Caesar's wife must be above suspicion, it was said.

That is why it is sorely inadequate for the government to defend the appointment of the deputy agriculture minister's wife to a political position merely as a "legal" move.

The government, especially Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, often preaches about upholding the highest moral standards.

Yet, this political appointment which reeks of cronyism is the opposite of what it said it stands for.

The cabinet last Tuesday appointed Thanaporn Sriviraj, the common-law wife of Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow as a government official, with immediate effect.

A former Miss Thailand, Ms Thanaporn, 26, has a degree in Chinese traditional medicine from the University of Phayao, where Mr Thamanat is a representative, and was associated with two companies -- one specialising in marketing while the other selling mobile phones, music, food and drinks, according to a report on ThaiPBS.

It's not clear how her experience would benefit her new position as an official in the prime minister's secretariat office.

Ms Thanaporn's appointment is especially controversial since it follows the still unresolved scandal exposed by Australian media about her husband's alleged conviction for heroin trafficking in Australia in 1993.

Ironically, the appointment came hot on the heels of the Sydney Herald Tribune's report on Mr Thamanat's imprisonment winning the Kennedy award for Outstanding Court Reporting.

Despite the court documents cited in the media, Mr Thamanat denied the allegation and claimed he was never jailed.

The substance reported to be heroin was just plain flour, he claimed during a recent censure debate.

The appointment of Ms Thanaporn sparked a public outcry over the possibility that nepotism was at play.

As criticism mounted, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam tried to defend the decision by saying it is not against the law.

When pressed whether it was the appropriate thing to do, Mr Wissanu shied away from answering.

He insisted, however, that the appointment of the minister's wife is not a conflict of interest since it was not Mr Thamanat who nominated his wife to the job.

Also, the position is under the quota of Prime Minister Gen Prayut who was also the person who approved the appointment.

Ms Thanaporn will not be working on her husband's portfolio according to Mr Wissanu.

For a government that claims it is an anti-corruption champion, such a minimal attempt to adhere to a scrutable standard is disappointing.

Although Mr Wissanu tried to play down Ms Thanaporn position in the government, saying it does not require specific qualifications, the minister's wife will still earn a salary of about 28,000 baht which will be paid for by taxpayers.

Mr Wissanu also reportedly said that the political position is of an "easy come, easy go" nature, as the holder is not entitled to a pension.

But none of these address the real point, which is how the minister's wife was deemed qualified to hold a position as a government official.

Since Gen Prayut is responsible for her appointment, the onus falls on him to clarify the controversy.

Otherwise, allegations of nepotism will only continue to dog his administration.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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