Thailand has undergone two military coups in the last two decades, the most recent one being in 2014 when the military ousted the government of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The main reason given by the military to justify the coup was corruption.
Since the military junta took power, they have advocated tough regulations on combatting corruption in various sectors of the government.
While recognizing the Thai government in their efforts to curtail corruption, Reynaud Meyer, chief of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), still hopes that Thailand’s lawmakers will do more to help curb the influence of influential figures and powerful groups within their country.
Meyer expressed his concern during the two-day regional conference organized by the UNDP, in collaboration with the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand (ACT) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC).
This comes to no surprise because Thailand in the following years after the coup in 2014 has fallen through the ranks in the Corruption Perception Index. The latest poll in 2018 put Thailand in the 99th spot along with the Philippines as the least corrupt out of 180 countries, down from being the 85th spot.
Criticisms of the Junta
Numerous critics of the military junta maintain that the junta’s rhetoric against corruption is a little more than a facade to hide their own corruption and to crackdown against their political opponents. The most obvious being the ouster of the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra over the mishandling of a rice subsidy policy.
ACT Secretary-General, Mana Nimitmongkol, pointed out that only several of the politicians made corruption their main agenda during the campaign period. He also stated that most politicians are resigned in their fight against it.
The problem with the Thai political system is that there is no way to scrutinize politicians over their policies. While several independent agencies do exist to scrutinize politicians, they are unable to make them accountable.
One of the most important steps in preventing corruption in a country is to ensure that its judicial system is independent and free of any outside influence.
While corruption is still widespread in Thailand and could become worse in the future, Thailand has in place several tools that are used globally to detect corruption such as the integrity pact (IP) which are employed to prevent corruption in public contracting. The Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST) is also an instrument utilized by countries worldwide that aim to reduce mismanagement and corruption in public infrastructure projects. The tools, having been implemented since 2015, are intended to save the Thai government budget over 100 billion baht.
ACT Vice-Chairman Vichai Assarasakorn stated that it’s not only about lowering procurement costs but is also about the cooperation between civil society, the government, and the private sector.
ACT Secretary-General Nimitmongkol, however, stated that corruption will still happen because of inconsistent government policies. Expressing his doubt that people with enough influence can be contained. Further addressing that in order to curtail corruption, all public projects must come under IP scrutiny.