The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has no reason to stall the Administrative Court's order for it to release details about its probe into the luxury watches case involving Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon.
The NACC suffered a setback already when the court agreed with an online media outlet that requested the information.
If it makes a further attempt to keep under wraps information about the probe which led to its decision to dismiss accusations that Gen Prawit gave a false wealth declaration by failing to include 22 luxury watches and rings, the commission will risk losing their credibility in performing their duties as graftbusters.
Transparency is key to fighting corruption. If the NACC itself cannot set an example in this regard, its existence would appear to be a sham.
Last week, the Administrative Court ruled in favour of the media's request for the NACC to disclose a summary of the luxury watches probe report, evidence and documents compiled by its inquiry panel, and Gen Prawit's testimony.
The case involved allegations that Gen Prawit had given a false assets declaration by failing to include luxury watches and rings worth more than 30 million baht which he was seen wearing in public.
Gen Prawit claimed the watches belonged to his late friend while the rings were given to him by his mother. He reasoned that the accessories did not have to be declared.
On Dec 27, 2018, the NACC ruled there were no grounds to the accusations -- a decision which did not seem to follow earlier precedents and caused a public uproar.
The court gave strong reasons for its order. Releasing the probe results will adhere to the principles of transparency and accountability which will engender public trust and faith in the NACC's work, the court said.
The court also said that state agencies are obliged by Sections 41 and 59 of the constitution to publicise information they possess so that people can be informed about their work which is a crucial aspect under democracy.
Making the probe results public will also allow people to look into the NACC's performance -- whether it conducted its duties and used its power in an honest, fair, courageous and unprejudiced manner.
The NACC does not appear receptive of the order so far. Commission spokesman Niwatchai Kasemmongkol said it is unlikely that the facts about the probe can be released as they involve accounts by witnesses which could lead to lawsuits.
The excuse carries no weight as the Administrative Court has already made an exception that information that is specific to individuals may be withheld.
Mr Niwatchai also said that the NACC would not be able to release information that could lead to a deterioration of the justice system, according to news reports.
The reason sounds ironic. Why would the NACC's probe results compromise the justice system? If it carried out the duties lawfully, why should it worry about disclosing the relevant documents, evidence and testimonies?
Mr Niwatchai said the NACC has 30 days to appeal against the order. The commission is waiting for the court order's details before deciding how to proceed.
The choice should be clear. The NACC would uphold its integrity if it maintained transparency in its mandate to curb corruption. Fighting the public's desire to hold it to account is a grave risk to its own credibility.