Problems are being sorted with bewildering speed
It is in no-way overstating the fact that there has been a distinct odour to the way the pledged rice has been stored in many privately-owned warehouses and silos from the start of the infamous scheme three years ago. But the real problem is that all those people in the Yingluck government, from top to bottom, who were responsible for the scheme didn’t smell it.
That’s why there was never any complaint from former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyaphirom or his successor, Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, about the mess in those warehouses and silos which is now being exposed by the rice inspection teams led by ML Panadda Diskul, permanent secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Only an insignificant amount of rice had gone missing from the huge rice stockpile. That was what the taxpayers were told by the government after it assigned Pol Maj-Gen Thawat Boonfuang, deputy secretary-general to the prime minister, to lead a police inspection of warehouses and silos across the country.
Yet look at what ML Panadda’s inspection teams have found in just two days of what will be a lengthy nationwide rice inspection. On his Facebook page, he wrote that the previous rice inspection was done half-heartedly, improperly or falsely because in just two days it has been discovered that a lot more rice than expected is missing and ID numbers on rice sacks do not correspond with documentation, suggesting the stored rice sold to some millers had been replaced with old rice.
“As well there is rotten rice, adulterated rice, no rice fumigation and in some warehouses the rice has been reduced to dust. Also, rice has been stacked in a disorderly way which makes it difficult for an inspection,” he wrote.
ML Panadda lamented the fact that accountability in Thailand had gone awry. “There is a lack of good governance in management, causing hardship to farmers,” he wrote.
Former Democrat MP Warong Dechgitvigrom, who blew the whistle on massive corruption in the rice-pledging scheme, says he simply cannot imagine how many more shortcomings will be exposed when all 1,800 warehouses and silos are inspected.
Besides the mess in the rice storage scheme, which is not very difficult to deal with, there are several other social issues which had been swept under the rug by previous governments and are now being cleaned up by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). These include illegal logging, lottery overpricing, illegal gambling, illegal parking and poor services by minivans, illegal firearms, human trafficking and exploitation of foreign migrant labour and mafia-type control of motorcycle taxis.
All of these activities have been allowed to flourish and prosper because of one reason — those who are responsible for law enforcement have not been doing their jobs properly because they benefit from them or are directly involved themselves.
Among the culprits are the police — as far as illegal gambling, illegal parking, illegal firearms, motorcycle
taxis are concerned — and forestry
officials for illegal logging and forest
Why all of a sudden and within the space of just one month has the army managed to drag in a huge haul of illegal war weapons and ammunition from different parts of the country when the police — during the six-months of the anti-government protests — managed to seize only a few handguns, ping-pong bombs, slingshots and non-lethal weapons?
How come a couple of resorts were built on forest reserves in Chiang Rai without their coming to the notice of forestry officials until they were raided last month by army personnel?
How was a big saw mill in Suphan Buri, which stores a huge quantity of illegal timber, able to escape detection by police and forestry officials for so long until last week’s raid of the premises by army personnel? The timber found in the sawmill, which the miller claimed to be wooden planks removed from doors of old wooden houses, was mostly in the shape of processed logs meant for export.
These are just a few examples of the rubbish swept under the rug. It appears that within the space of a month, the NCPO has done more than most previous governments while in office.
It is too early to conclude the junta has been successful in dealing with these illegal businesses. But the NCPO’s actions prove that these activities can be tackled or kept under control if law enforcement officials — the police in particular — are honest enough and strict about enforcing the law. It’s no wonder there is such a resounding call for the police to be reined in and reformed.
Ask the average man or woman in the street if they want the NCPO to clean up the mess as well as helping to lay down a new set of ground rules to ensure good governance, transparency and accountability for civilian rule when power is handed back to politicians. The answer will, I believe, clearly be a “yes” rather than a “no” as indicated in the most recent opinion polls.
I would say, “Let the black cat catch the mice first because the white cat is too fat and too lazy to do its job”.
Or should we kick out the black cat because there are some among us who can’t stand its scent, its colour or its look? The mice could then stage a comeback with a vengeance, for the simple reason the black cat has no place in this mad house.
Veera Prateepchaikul is a former editor, Bangkok Post.
Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.