Graft is still pervasive
Thailand's latest Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) score saw it "improve" by nine places to 101st out of 180 countries. However, despite the positive trajectory, it is too soon to start celebrating just yet.
Some even may question whether the jump indicates any real improvement at all judging from recent news of Chinese triad bosses bribing government officials and now the latest scandal of Taiwanese tourists being extorted by police. Perhaps the CPI's latest appraisal is not a reflection of actual corruption in each country.
Still, the Berlin-based Transparency International offers a useful glimpse into underlying sentiment in those countries by certain groups of individuals in society. This approach is a widely accepted way of dealing with the difficulty of measuring actual corruption, which is an almost impossible task given the nature of the crime.
In the 2022 index released last week, Thailand's overall score only improved by one point to 36 out of 100 -- with zero being most corrupt and 100 least corrupt -- from 35 the previous year.
Nevertheless, Thailand's ranking improved by nine places to 101st from 110th.
In 2014, the year Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha staged his coup, Thailand's CPI score increased to 38 from 35 in 2013. In 2015, it still maintained its 38-point score.
But the country has levelled off despite with the junta-sponsored constitution having been billed as "the charter of corruption suppression and eradication". However, the 2017 version did squeeze in several anti-graft rules and mechanisms.
According to the CPI survey, the government has shown greater seriousness in dealing with the problem of bribery and has taken punitive action against corrupt officials.
There have also been several other measures introduced, such as e-bidding and more monitoring systems, to deter high-level malfeasances.
However, the government has failed to tackle corruption in its own bureaucracy, with rampant graft among state officials in budget management, conflicts of interest and lax law enforcement still big problems.
The CPI is not a measurement of actual corruption as it is just a survey of opinion. For example, even though former Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) chief Rutchada Suriyakul Na Ayutya was charged with taking bribes from subordinates in exchange for promotions, the department was still awarded Grade A in the government's Integrity and Transparency Assessment (ITA) this year.
Many cases of corruption have continued to make headlines in recent months, ranging from teachers cheating students out of their subsidies to security officers' links to Chinese illegal gangs and e-cigarette arrests.
Corruption has deep roots in the kingdom and it can sometimes seem like an impossible mission to remove the incentives politicians have to protect their interests and those of their allies.
The agencies responsible for combating corruption, such as the Anti-Corruption Commission, have been criticised for being weak and ineffective, as well as engaging in corruption of their own.
Huge sums of money will circulate during the upcoming election campaigns with vote-buying and unfair canvassing once again likely to be rife.
How can we expect corruption to be solved by those who rise to the top as a result of such practices?
It is too soon to celebrate the improvement in the Corruption Perceptions Index rankings.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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