City Hall's duty of care
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City Hall's duty of care

Last week, the public learned of two cases of sexual harassment involving high-ranking government officials.

In the first case, a C-10 judge was accused of sexually assaulting his subordinate on June 1.

In the other, a female member of Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt's team publicly accused a Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) executive of making unwanted sexual advances at work.

After receiving an official complaint on June 25, last week the Court of Justice transferred the C-10 judge to an inactive post. An official disciplinary probe is ongoing. The news grabbed national headlines and earned the CoJ praise for showing it has the teeth to act swiftly against high-ranking officials.

However, that might not be the case at the BMA, as the victim claimed she had no choice but to go public as her pleas for help to her supervisors failed to bring her the justice she sought.

The incident, she said, happened over a year ago. She said in April last year, her colleague, who was a senior BMA executive, forcefully hugged her and kissed her neck and ear despite her efforts to push him away.

The BMA's failure to launch an investigation immediately after receiving the report should be scrutinised. Worse still, instead of launching an investigation, her supervisor initiated an informal "reconciliation" meeting between the victim and the accused, in which the accused admitted his wrongdoings.

At the meeting, the victim also asked him to issue a public apology on social media, which he has failed to do to date.

The BMA conducted an official probe last year, in which the accused suddenly denied any wrongdoing. As a result, the victim felt she had no other alternative but to file a complaint through the Traffy Fondue mobile app.

After details of the incident hit social media, Mr Chadchart admitted that the BMA asked the accused to leave his post quietly, even though the probe was inconclusive. He also suggested that the victim seek justice by pressing charges with the police.

The way the BMA chief handled the issue raises questions. Does City Hall have formal disciplinary procedures or an internal audit system? Should the BMA follow the CoJ's lead by recording the details of all official disciplinary probes? Or should it just use informal closed-door meetings to settle disputes?

Indeed, this case may just be the tip of the iceberg, so a more stringent internal audit system needs to be implemented.

It also needs to be pointed out that these weren't the only scandals involving high-ranking BMA officials in the past year. Early last year, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) exposed a Ratchathewi district official after they caught him asking for a bribe from a property developer.

In May last year, the NACC again accused an official at the BMA's Department of Engineering of seeking a bribe from a real estate developer to change road construction and land expropriation plans to benefit the developer. The question is: Does City Hall have a robust enough audit system to handle the systematic corruption that is ingrained in its bureaucracy?

Mr Chadchart should take a closer look at the sexual harassment complaint to ensure such incidents are handled professionally without sweeping awkward details under the rug. It is time for him to prove his promise that sexual harassment will not be tolerated during his tenure.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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