Corruption and cover-ups

Corruption and cover-ups

As they say in Narathiwat, it never rains but it pours. Wow! Sure, we asked about corruption, but we weren't expecting to be flooded out.

If more is better, it was quite a week for insight before the big disappointment. We had:

• a stunningly detailed 53-page report documenting by Rolls-Royce of how bribery works in government, with every butt of every phuyai covered so thoroughly that forces of both Voldemort and Democrats held press conferences about how they knew nothing. We dutifully infer the house and the twin Mercedes came through scrimping on salaries and a diet of fish heads and sand.

• a schadenfreude-esque confirmation that yes, after all, big American companies do bribe and kick back, although perhaps not as often because the system will try to track them down pretty quickly.

• an up-close look at how, right here and right now, seriously rich people in tune with the thinking of the green shirts can get a 25-year, uncontested, no-bid, transparent-as-stained windows deal to maintain Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, a deal worth an estimated minimum of billions.

• the tortured reasoning of the gang in brown that if one of them, say, oh, for example the chief of Bangkok police, is getting a white envelope with 50,000 baht every month for "advising", it's not just OK but laudable, on the single conclusion that no police regulation exists which specifically names Thai Beverage.

• the opinion of the world that while there are 75 countries more corrupt than Thailand (Haiti, Chad, North Korea, etc), there are exactly 100 countries less corrupt (India, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, etc).

• worldwide scoop on the art taste of the deputy director-general of the Intellectual Property Department, which is cheap, stolen landscapes and naked porn stars.

There was almost total outrage at the theft of schlocky hotel art by the extremely senior civil servant, valued less than a single cut of wagyu beef at Villa Market. Officials up to and including the foreign minister were angry he got caught in the act.

Secretary-general Sansern Poljeak of the inactive-post headquarters sometimes called the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), lamented the Transparency International report because it was so unfair. Transparency International awarded credit for "being a democratic country", and Thailand got a zero there, very unjust.

Transparency International made an interesting and pertinent point, however.

"The lower-ranked countries in our index are plagued by untrustworthy and badly functioning public institutions like the police and judiciary." The folks from Transparency International didn't single out any single, obvious example of a country beginning with "T", but you just did, didn't you?

Anti-corruption laws are skirted or ignored, said the German-based agency. There is frequent bribery and extortion in basic services. "Grand corruption thrives in such settings."

One upset man with a plan did an end run. Former Thai Airways International captain and Angel Airlines executive Yothin Pamornmontri went straight to the prime minister, requesting a full investigation into what he says is obvious corruption in the purchase of 10 Airbus aircraft since Charumporn Jotikasthira became president of THAI in late 2014.

That's the prime minister who praised Mr Charumporn for his fine work running THAI. The prime minister who gave the distinct impression he cared not at all for all this hibbity jibbity about graft because of his personal programme to eliminate corruption at some point.

Gen Prayut explained why all this corruption news above is meaningless. First, because "Everything happened in the past", so what's the point? And, "Astrologers [already] told us it is the year of exposing the truth", so why the shock and surprise?

By coincidence, THAI opened applications for president last week, as Mr Charumporn's term is up within a month.

There will be no trials or public hearings.

The Great Cover-ups are under way. The spokesman-cum-secretary general of the commission charged with investigating corruption, the NACC, opined how difficult it will be to get information out of foreigners about Rolls-Royce kickbacks. Priority was successfully paying a Japanese hotel to drop theft charges against the art-loving deputy director-general of the Department of Intellectual Property and get him back to Bangkok for a clean retirement.

And who are you to question the morals of a Bangkok police chief just for giving advice and getting a thick, 50-banknote white envelope for it each month?

If corruption is inevitable, as Transparency International says it absolutely is, so is the tragic inability of visually impaired officials, right to the tip-top of government, to see and correct the most obvious, clearly exposed venality.

Alan Dawson

Online Reporter / Sub-Editor

A Canadian by birth. Former Saigon's UPI bureau chief. Drafted into the American Armed Forces. He has survived eleven wars and innumerable coups. A walking encyclopedia of knowledge.

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