FIGHTING CORRUPTION IN THAILAND AT THE CORE – There are times that it feels like no matter where you look, where you go or who you speak to, someone, somewhere is on the take and it’s often reported that the biggest perpetrators of corruption in Thailand are the very officials that are supposed to fight against it.
Corruption in Thailand comes in various shapes and forms, from a Police Officer pocketing traffic fines to Government officials skimming vast sums off the top of Government contracts.
We have had a number of stories handed to us recently regarding Thai police officers charging bar owners in popular tourist areas such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket protection money.
It is nothing unusual to hear of a foreign expat owning a bar and complaining that the police turn up once amount to collect their ‘protection’ money; often referred to as ‘tea money’.
The cost appears to range from 2,000 Baht to 20,000 Baht and on some occasions more. The amounts appear to depend on the size of the bar and whether it wants to stay open beyond the legal trading hours permitted by law.
In cases where bar owners pay off the police to look the other way, so that they may remain open ‘after-hours’, it garners little sympathy to their complains; they are after all breaking the law themselves and therefore the practice of corruption is a two way street.
As a high profile tourist destination Phuket has a number of issues that can no longer be swept under the carpet and there are even some individuals who are trying to tackle corruption.
I highlighted Phuket here as the Thai Government recently announced a crackdown on corruption on the holiday destination after years of complaints by foreign tourists and foreign diplomats.
Earlier this month the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) was installed in Phuket with the remit of uncovering, exposing and stopping corruption within the local authorities and of course the police force.
It is early days as to how effective their investigations will be and of course whether they are willing to openly point the finger at those individuals who are involved in high level corruption.
Corruption on the surface appears relatively easy to tackle; one simply refuses to pay a bribe or money for a protective service. However, the one of the crippling effects of corruption is the fear that is associated with it; the word ‘mafia’ is often banded around.
Some six months ago an article appeared in one of the local Phuket newspapers which covered an issue with market traders. The traders were demonstrating outside the Governors house after being approached by a further two Government offices for ‘under the table’ payments. The traders complained that they were already paying fourteen Government offices ‘tea money’ and were enraged that a further two now wanted in on the game.
It was almost astonishing to read that the market traders actually said they were happy to pay the existing fourteen corrupt payments but another two was outrageous.
This very statement cements the mindset that corruption appears acceptable; or at least acceptable to a certain level and that people are fearful of not paying.
Yesterday one of our readers emailed us with a link to a new website; or at least it’s new to us. The website Bribespot.com is designed to allow people to report practices of corruption and by whom and where they have become a victim. The website can be accessed by mobile devices allowing people to immediately report any instance of corruption and is available in both Thai and English.
Is this an effective way to tackle corruption? The answer to that depends on whether or not the website is able to attract sufficient people to use the service and report the crime. On a darker note we asked around and the consensus is that such a site would likely get shut down or at least blocked by the Thai Government in an attempt to conceal the truth.
Maybe that is a cynical way of looking at things and maybe it’s worth considering that the Thai Government have been talking at considerable lengths to find ways to significantly reduce corruption in Thailand; if they are serious then Bribespot.com could be used as an effective tool in uncovering and imprisoning those who engage in corruptive practices.
The only way to see if such an idea can work, flourish and produce positive results is for more people to use the service. I often hear the excuse that one person cannot make a difference; it was this very reason I started meebal.com because I sincerely believe that if one person spreads the word others will follow and collectively people can instigate change.
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