PHUKET CORRUPTION BEGINS TO UNRAVEL AS THOSE ACCUSED START POINT THE FINGER – When you have a country that is bathed in corruption from top to bottom cleaning it up is a monumental task.
The issue is where do you start, who do you start with and when you start pointing the finger how many fingers are going to start pointing back at you?
That’s the problem now facing Phuket, Thailand; a high profile tourist destination where western tourist numbers are falling due to issues of corruption, scams and rip offs.
Honoury Consols and Foreign Diplomats have been pleading with the Thai Government and Phuket authorities for years to clean up their act and with the threat of Phuket now becoming desolate of western tourists things might now be turning around.
Last month the Thai Government announced that it was going to take affirmative action and clean up the corruption. It has now sent in a team from the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) in order uncover and bring criminal charges against those responsible for corruption.
With the DSI now being setup and their investigations underway they have already started pointing the finger; although pointing the finger in Thailand does have its consequences.
It is nothing unusual for a disgruntled Thai official to immediately issue a court writ for defamation against anyone who dares whisper their name with any connotations of corruption.
Another reason why so many have failed to tackle corruption is that it is nothing unusual for individuals to meet an untimely end; this in the Thai view appears to solve the problem of anyone getting to the truth and murder is a common aspect in Thailand.
So where are we at present? The latest person to have come under investigation is businessman, Chart Jindapon and is being accused of extorting money from local businesses in Patong, an area within Phuket.
As you would expect the finger pointing soon began and Chart Jindapon has already stated that he is merely a patsy for the administrators at the top of the pile.
Note this is an island just 70 kilometer in length and 35 kilometers wide and yet the number of ‘local authorities’ is staggering; this only further fuels the belief that anyone of any standing wants in on the corruption game and therefore the islands administrative systems is bloated by worthless and greedy officials.
According to Chart Jindapon the focus should be on the guy who collects the money for the 17 Government organisations which amounts to some 60 million Bath a month (approximately US$2 million). It is he, according to Chart Jindapon, that skims 3 million Baht off the top for himself before letting the other officials have their cuts.
When you look at the average wage being 9,000 Baht; based on the Governments minimum wage; that’s an awful lot of money.
Chart Jindapon decided to hold a press conference after an anonymous letter began circulating accusing him of being head of a Patong gang of extortionists.
It is widely known that Government officials, including the police, extort finances from thousands of bars and restaurants across the island; it is nothing unusual to pay visiting police once a month and failure to do so could result in a business being closed or in some cases burnt to the ground.
Another lucrative area for corrupt officials is the illegal sale of counterfeit goods, such as pirated DVDs, clothing and all manner of other pirated goods. These items are often sold by illegal workers from Myanmar, Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam; but are believed to be headed by unseen Thai figures behind the scenes.
During the press conference Chart Jindapon stated that he wanted to make it perfectly clear that he is not the person who collects money on behalf of corrupt Thai Government officials and does not extort money from local businesses.
This statement alone now places the Thai Government officials again under the spotlight.
The letter simply accused Chart Jindapon of being the person that extorts money from business in Patong, however the letter delivered to the authorities was not signed by anyone.
The issue of corruption is certainly now being brought to light and what has started will no doubt get a lot uglier with more people being accused which is likely to result in more people pointing the finger at others higher up the tree.
Earlier we published an article on Thailand’s issue of corruption and how one website has been set up to allow people to report if they have been victims.
There are a number of high-profile issues to cover in this latest round of attempting to clean up Thailand’s imagine and include illegal land encroachment, taxi and tuk tuk mafia, police and government authority corruption and the on-going issues of the rife goods pirating trade.
Whilst skeptics continue to report that nothing is ever going to get done or be achieved due to the high offices held by those involved it must be said that this is at least a positive step and with continued public pressure it is possible to flush these people out and make Thailand a better place for everyone.
Do you think the Thai Government is serious about cleaning up corruption or is this simply smoke and mirrors to protect those at the very top? Please leave your comments below.