6 June 2024

Thailand’s leading graft-fighters have appealed to politicians and political parties contesting the next general election to demonstrate a clear commitment to dealing with corruption, which they said has become more visible and widespread.

They also urged members of the public to be more mindful of what they described as a scourge “that is eating away at society”.

“Politicians have the primary responsibility in taking the lead in the fight against corruption,” said Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, secretary general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

He said the problems could be more effectively tackled if politicians did not turn a blind eye to them or become part of them.

Niwatchai was speaking on Monday at a forum held to mark the 12th anniversary of the founding of Isranews Agency, a news organisation known for its investigative reporting that exposes corruption and abuses of power by state agencies and officials.

Auditor General Prajak Boonyang told the same panel that members of the public and government officials should take a more active role as whistle-blowers in exposing suspected wrongdoing.   “Ordinary citizens shouldn’t think that corruption is not their problem. Corruption affects everybody in the society,” he said.

Prajak said people now have easier access to data because of digitalization. “Even if they are junior officials, if they come across irregularities in their organisation, don’t hesitate to become whistle-blowers,” he said.

He cited the recent arrest of the head of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, who was caught red-handed receiving bribes in his office. He said the arrest was made a result of a tip-off by officials in the department.

Vichien Phongsathorn, chairman of the Anti-corruption Organisation of Thailand, said fighting corruption needs a concerted effort by all sectors of society. Those in the private sector, he said, play a crucial role in reducing corruption, by not only caring about personal gain.

He also called on political parties to make fighting corruption a significant part of their election manifestos.

“We want to see them demonstrate their commitment to fighting this menace,” he said.