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PM targets corruption in government and military

The Prayut administration took several steps against corruption among state officials last week as the Prime Minister launched an investigation into procurement of microphones for Government House.  Charges were also prepared against 16 officials over land scandals and prosecutors readied a case against an army general for running an extortion racket. 

 

The combined actions underscored the seriousness that the government is placing on the issue of corruption.  Various administrations in the past had vowed to fight graft but often ignored reports of corruption within their own ranks or that of the security services, shielding political allies while pursuing cases against opponents.  Many analysts, economists and business people have cited corruption as a significant problem that is holding back Thailand’s advancement.  The Kingdom is far from alone, however, in being afflicted by graft. Thailand usually ranks in the middle of the pack in global corruption indices.

 

Setting a positive example, Prime Minister Prayut cancelled a contract last week to install new microphones and video conferencing equipment at Government House after the media questioned the cost and procurement process.  Newspapers reported that the price paid for the equipment was several times higher than the listed price, and that the equipment had been installed before the price was settled upon and the contract finalized.

 

The Prime Minister had the microphones and equipment removed and set up a panel to investigate the purchase.  “I want all of you to calm down and wait for the accurate information,” Prayut said to reporters after the Cabinet meeting.  He did not rule out buying the system, however, if investigators find the contract was appropriate.  He stressed, however, that the purchase and the process must be transparent.

 

Land rights and ownership have been plagued by corruption for decades, and led to the fall of one government during the 1990s.  The Royal Forestry Department announced last week that it was preparing charges against 16 government officials, including some members of the Department, over two land scandals on the resort island of Phuket.  The officials are accused of facilitating the private purchase and development of lands in national parks and protected areas, and a few are believed to have been engaged in corrupt practices since the late 1980s. 

 

The administration has made a priority of recovering national lands illegally bought or taken by influential figures.

 

In Bangkok, police asked prosecutors last week to file charges against an Army Major General known as “Seh James” and four other men for running an extortion ring that targeted night market vendors in tourist areas of the capital. Before the current government came to power, police and prosecutors appeared to avoid pursuing cases against suspects in the military.

 

See the original article at the U.S. Royal Thai Embassy Website.

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