Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bangkok Post, Transparency International and Revisionist History

Scourge keeps nation down

Bangkok Post


According to the secretary-general of Transparency Thailand, Juree Vichit-Vadakan, the improvement was attributable to the success of the independent organisations such as the Assets Scrutiny Commission and the National Counter Corruption Commission in investigating and prosecuting corrupt politicians. Also, during the period when the survey was undertaken, Thailand was administered by an interim government led by an honest prime minister, Gen Surayud Chulanont, and mostly comprised respectable bureaucrats. The absence of career politicians infamous for their insatiable appetite for power and money also contributed to the improved situation.

The Bangkok Post is almost as shameless as The Nation when it comes to outrageous propaganda.

Right, that clean and honest Surayud Government, headed by a multi-millionare general who has an illegal compound in a national forest sanctuary that the Thai press and Transparency International refuses to hold him accountable for. The same government that had other multi-millionare generals, like General Panlop, murderer of southern Muslims, self-proclaimed hero of the coup, proud assasin, and alleged mastermind behind more than one bomb attack.

Then, there is the other Mr. Clean of the Surayud Government, General Saprang, who had hundreds of millions of baht directed into his own pocket in order to clease the country of pro-Thaksin forces. He also headed those other organizations known for their honesty and transparancy, AOT and TOT/CAT telecoms, which under his leadership lost hundreds of millions of baht. As head of those agencies, he took it upon himself to take his cronies a trip to Europe on the Thai taxpaper's satang. This is also the same General Saprang who used Thai taxpayer money to hire academics and journalists to discredit Thaksin in public.

Further, the military exponentially increased the defense budget post-coup and bought many new weapons in dodgy procurement deals that the Bangkok Post refuses to investigate.

The improved CPI rating, although appreciated, should not fool us into complacency that we are on the right course in the effort to stem corruption and that the situation will get better in the future. Had the TI conducted a survey during the tenure of the Samak government, the results might have been more disappointing.

What corruption scandals have their been during the Samak Government? A cooking show?

As the new government under the leadership of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat is about to assume office, there is widespread concern that corrupt politicians will seize the opportunity to implement lucrative projects, especially mega infrastructure projects, to quickly enrich themselves or their parties, in preparation for the next election, knowing that the new government will not last long. Such concern is not without basis, given the massive corruption scandals involving infrastructure projects which took place during the Thaksin regime.

How many investigative reports did the Bangkok Post do on Thaksin's corruption scandals? How many investigative reports has the Bangkok Post ever done on corruption on the police, the bureaucracy, the military or at the provincial level? The answer is none.

It comes as little surprise that the cabinet line-up has been greeted with a sense of resignation by the business community. Despite the claim by Prime Minister Somchai that his cabinet ministers are qualified, the opinion of the general public and business leaders is vastly different. The economic team, for instance, is a total let-down. Aside from Olarn Chaipravat, who is tipped to be deputy prime minister in charge of economic matters, the rest of the team - such as Suchart Thadathamrongvej who is tipped to be appointed the finance minister - are, at best, amateurs. Their capability to deal with economic affairs, particularly the new challenges posed by the fallout from the contagious US financial crisis, is in serious doubt.

See Suchart's resume over at Bangkok Pundit.

Corruption has never been seriously recognised as a major problem and has thus always been ignored by successive governments since the Thaksin regime, which was plagued with massive corruption; the ex-premier himself has been implicated in several graft cases.

Good governance has always been treated with disdain by corrupt politicians. With several unqualified and tainted figures in the new cabinet, and with the bleak prediction that the government is likely to last only a couple of months, it is doubtful Mr Somchai will achieve anything of significance, let alone fight corruption.

It is doubful that corruption in Thailand will ever subside, as long as newspapers like the Bangkok Post refuse to do their duty and investigate it.

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