Corruption is a two-way street
published : 21 Aug 2013 at 00:00
newspaper section: News
The Thailand version of Bribespot.com has gone live. The website and cloud application invites users to enter details of any corruption on a map of the country. It works with PCs, smartphones and other devices, and the Thailand map is already showing dozens of demands for bribes throughout the country.
The main Bribespot website started in the Baltic states two years ago. The Thailand-specific page went online only a few weeks ago, although entries can be to any country or city, from any location. The main site now recognises connections from Thailand, and the map of the country, along with specific allegations of corruption, are recorded mostly in Thai.
Almost all the early entries on the app are alleged graft or shakedowns by officials, policemen and taxi drivers.
In a statement, Bribespot Thailand says it aims to "empower the general public to respond immediately and effectively when they encounter public sector bribery". But the application offers no empowerment at all.
The website is located outside Thailand, and there is no hint that it is even read by government or law enforcement authorities, let alone acted upon.
Many of the early incidents reported on Bribespot Thailand are simply charges by one individual against another. Even if the GPS coordinates are given, there is no actual proof of corruption.
The sad fact is that virtually every allegation of corruption, bribery or intimidation is credible, if not provable. The culture of corruption is often discussed, but less frequently acted upon.
In addition to the difficulty of gathering evidence and punishing the bribe taker, the truth is that the country in no way seems committed to fighting even large-scale corruption at government level, never mind the petty bribery of a traffic violation, a district office's transaction or a school's tea money.
While Bribespot Thailand provides an outlet for complaints, it does virtually nothing to address the problem of corruption. Neither, it must be said, do other such groups and organisations. No one doubts the goodwill of those who have organised anti-corruption campaigns. But none has so far been effective for one, glaring reason.
Bribery, and corruption in general, requires two parties. At its core, graft is a form of business. One party provides a service, for which another party provides payment.
Drivers receive reduced fines in return for instant, personal payment. Impatient members of the public, in return for cash, receive improved, faster service at government offices. Big Business, in return for "help" to politicians, receives special laws, loopholes and contracts.
A group of businessmen recently set up the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT). It is a well-meaning effort by Thai businesses to promote honesty in national governance. It promises to make the government accountable by monitoring contracts and public services. It also has campaigns to educate citizens to do the same.
But campaigns against bribery will be effective only when they properly seek action against both parties to the bribe _ the ones who give it, but most especially the ones who stand to benefit.
The public knows that big-time corruption in Thailand involves big business. It should definitely not allow itself to achieve only what Bribespot.com can. The first time that it turns in a major business group for attempted bribery will mark true progress in the war against corruption.