Protection urged for whistleblowers

Protection urged for whistleblowers

Society must protect whistleblowers from prosecution, reprisals and threats to encourage more to come forward, anti-corruption bodies have urged.

Speaking at a seminar aimed at persuading members of the public to report corrupt practices Tuesday, Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand director Mana Nimitmongkol said that even though the overall situation has improved according to the latest global Corruption Perception Index in which Thailand's ranking has risen to 96 from 101 last year, the country still has a long way to go.

Mr Mana said Thais are now paying more attention to corruption than ever before, citing a recent survey on public perception of corruption by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, which showed 87% of people interviewed expressed a desire to take part in preventing graft.

"Although that is a good sign, there are still 13% of respondents who would not dare to stand up against wrongdoing because they fear the consequences," he said.

Mr Mana added that this shows that the system does not adequately protect those who report corrupt practices, giving the case of alleged graft in financial management at Khon Kaen Protection Centre for the Destitute as an example.

The embezzlement scandal at the centre was exposed by Panida Yotpanya, a Mahasarakham University student, and Nattakarn Muenpol, a former employee of the welfare centre.

Although Ms Panida has now won widespread praise, she initially faced condemnation and a rebuke from the head of a department where she is studying, while Ms Nattakarn lost her job and is still unemployed.

"Unfortunately, now many people know what they had to endure before their story caught media attention," said Mr Mana.

He also suggested that anti-corruption bodies provide mechanisms for whistleblowers to report anonymously and show that they take allegations seriously.

Moreover, there must be laws to ensure that no vindictive counter claims are made to ensure people keep their jobs or are compensated for any financial loss, he said.

Ms Panida, who was also speaking at the seminar, said she believed if whistleblowers are provided with better protection and can make a report anonymously, more will dare to come forward.

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