NACC must explain

NACC must explain

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is facing questions about its handling of a probe involving a public figure close to the powers-that-be.

NACC commissioners on Monday voted 8-1 to clear charges of concealing assets against Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha, the younger brother of the prime minister.

The ruling surprised many pundits as only months ago the NACC had a different view with all nine commissioners in June unanimously agreeing there were grounds to summon Gen Preecha for questioning.

Gen Preecha, a senator, was accused of falsely declaring his assets and liabilities while serving with the National Legislative Assembly formed after the National Council for Peace and Order toppled the Pheu Thai-led government in 2014.

The alleged false declaration had to do with Gen Preecha's failure to include his house in Phitsanulok and bank accounts belonging to his wife, Pongpuan, in the couple's assets list.

Yet with the NACC's ruling this week, all but one commissioner found that Gen Preecha had no intention to hide his wealth, and did not gain any benefits from doing so.

The public was briefly told that commissioners found Gen Preecha misunderstood the asset declaration rule simply because the house in question was under construction at that time.

The ruling has been compared to a similar case such as that of former education minister Somsak Prisannantakul over accusations he had concealed wealth by hiding a 16-million baht house which he argued was built before he was appointed education minister.

But the NACC has seen its its image further questioned after making some other questionable rulings in recent times. In 2018, it cleared Gen Prawit Wongsuwon of an asset concealing charge after he failed to declare expensive rings and 22 luxury wristwatches.

The president of the NACC, Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, has also faced questions about being close to Gen Prawit. Pol Gen Watcharapol was named NACC president in late 2015 under the junta government.

NACC can only prove such doubts wrong by turning more transparent and, by way of example, it can answer some questions about what criteria it used in judging Gen Preecha's intentions. But instead, the NACC has been criticised for refusing to reveal information about the probe to the public.

In August, the commission refused to disclose records of assets owned by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam by citing the new NACC law that prevents it from making public details of both men as well as more than 100 other political post-holders. The act, revised by the now-defunct National Legislative Assembly during the National Council for Peace and Order's tenure, has been in effect since 2018.

Last month, the commission also did not comply with the Administrative Court's order for it to release details about its probe into the luxury watches case involving Gen Prawit, with the NACC explaining that it cannot disclose details of witness accounts because it might prompt lawsuits.

But the reluctance to reveal probe information can only hurt the NACC's image and hamper the country's mission to promote transparency. As the national graftbuster, it needs to lead by example by being an open institute.

By failing to be accountable, the commission will become part of the problem it's trying to solve.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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