Prem decries corrupt as state thieves

Prem decries corrupt as state thieves

Scholars praise new steps to fight graft

Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, who recently celebrated his 95th birthday, declared corruption to be
Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, who recently celebrated his 95th birthday, declared corruption to be "Public Enemy Number One" when he presided over the opening of Thailand’s 6th National Conference on Collective Action against Corruption on Oct 15. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda has proposed a renewed effort to fight corruption, which he decried as Thailand's number one enemy.

Corruption is the most severe ill which plagues the country, and a shameful matter for Thailand, Gen Prem said Thursday following a seminar organised by the Collective Action Against Corruption, a network of companies tackling graft problems.

According to Gen Prem, corruption in Thailand occurs at the individual level, in dealings between private sector companies and state agencies, as well as in government policies that are specifically designed to enable corruption.

The statesman argued that taking part in corrupt schemes is akin to robbing the country. "Those involved are thieves," he said.

If corruption continues to take place, Thailand will be viewed as a cheating nation, and Thai citizens will be called cheaters, he added.

Gen Prem urged the private sector to set an example. They should show the public that companies can be successful without offering bribes or taking part in fraudulent dealings, but can break through by using ethics and good governance.

Individuals who take part in corrupt deals must be sanctioned, he said, calling for an end to the existing culture of impunity. Such people should have no standing in society.

"We must neither admire nor respect those who gained success, wealth or fame through corruption. We must neither trade nor associate with these robbers," he said.

Corruption is only harming the country, he said, stripping the kingdom of its wealth, causing it to lose business opportunities and giving Thailand a bad reputation. All parties must be involved in graft-fighting for the sake of national security, he added.

Meanwhile, academics and experts have praised the Prayut Chan-o-cha government for creating a wide array of measures to help reduce graft. However, they insist it it is too early to say whether such measures will prove effective.

Pramon Suthiwong, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, said there is a political will to tackle the issue of corruption, adding the government had placed the matter high on its agenda of items demanding attention.

Mr Pramon said this was illustrated in the government's creation of a "Super Board", in charge of monitoring state-owned enterprises, and the Centre for National Anti-Corruption (CNAC), two bodies chaired by the prime minister himself.

In recent months, the CNAC has taken disciplinary measures against more than 100 state officials found guilty of corruption, using Section 44 of the interim charter, he said. The National Anti-Corruption Commission is also taking action against officials who have taken part in fraudulent dealings, or abused their authority, he said.

Duenden Nikomborirak, a senior researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute, agreed there was a political commitment to fighting graft, and said legislators had been actively involved in busting corruption as well.

Last July, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) passed the Licence Facilitation Act, which holds officials accountable if they fail to perform accordingly, Ms Duenden said.

The researcher said the NLA is considering a new bill on public procurement -- which would include an Integrity Pact, allowing external observers to scrutinise the procurement process in large deals -- as well as a law related to conflicts of interest, but added such measures have to be properly enforced.

"Passing laws is easy. Enforcing them is another challenge," Ms Duenden argued.

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