Wanchai on a mission to kill graft
NRSA national reform chairman says those guilty of top-level, billion-baht corruption deserve to die
Many people might be appalled at first glance by the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) proposal for harsher punishment, including the death penalty, against public figures convicted in corruption cases causing damages exceeding 1 billion baht.
Yet Wanchai Sornsiri, the NRSA's political reform chairman, who floated the radical proposal during the assembly's meeting early this month, stands by the idea, saying the country has been weak on fighting corruption for too long.
Mr Wanchai, also a lawyer, said mechanisms to examine the abuse of state power need to be reformed to stop state officials unlawfully exercising their power and causing damage to the country.
He has proposed a range of tough measures, including life imprisonment for those found guilty in corruption cases causing damage of between 100 million and 1 billion baht.
Those convicted in cases causing damage of between 10 million baht but not exceeding 100 million baht could face a 20-year jail sentence.
Those involved in causing damage of more than one million baht but less than 10 million baht would face a 10-year prison sentence; and a maximum five years' imprisonment would be handed down to those found guilty in cases which cause damage of less than one million baht.
Of the 162 steering committee members, 155 voted in favour of the measures while the rest abstained during the meeting.
Mr Wanchai said mechanisms to keep state officials in check have been in place for several decades, but they are not robust enough to stop corrupt officials. They continue to exploit legal loopholes to commit unlawful practices, he said.
More austere punishment was needed to send a warning to state officials that corruption has consequences, he said.
Mr Wanchai said corruption has taken deep root in Thailand because of failures in the system to examine the abuse of state power, adding previous coups also partly resulted from corruption.
"I think it is better to kill one corrupt official than deploying the whole army to stage a coup," he said.
The strict measures form part of NRSA proposals to impose checks and balances on the use of state power.
They also aim to regulate no-confidence debates and clarify the qualifications of members of independent organisations.
Mr Wanchai stressed the severe penalty was aimed not just at politicians, but also state officials and civilians who collude in corrupt practices.
He also insisted the measures do not focus on only high-profile cases involving ex-premiers Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra.
Asked how the punishment will be enforced, Mr Wanchai said that would depend on the committee for national administration under the framework of national reform, strategy, and reconciliation, which has Prime Minister's Office Minister Suvit Maesincee as its secretary.
The committee must set up panels to oversee various issues, he said.
Nevertheless, Mr Wanchai said it would not have a retrospective effect on convicted corrupt politicians or those who are currently in the prosecution process.
Mr Wanchai said the NRSA is now working on an amendment putting the proposal into effect, adding it would be sent to various agencies for deliberation including the National Council for Peace and Order, the cabinet, the National Legislative Assembly, the Constitution Drafting Committee, the Election Commission and other anti-corruption organisations such as the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission under the Justice Ministry.
Under the proposal, the NRSA also proposed measures to regulate no-confidence debates to prevent politicians from proposing motions or issues for political reasons rather than focusing on the country's problems.
In the past, information presented in the debates was not solid enough to prosecute politicians suspected of being involved in corrupt practices as most of the information was gathered from the media.
With the new regulations, motions raised by the opposition must be presented along with solid information which must be acceptable by state anti-corruption agencies such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission.