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Taking a Stand against Corruption in Thailand

UNDP Thailand/Mark S. Cogan | At the rally on International Anti-Corruption Day, more than 1500 students will ask the public to take a pledge to ‘refuse to be corrupt.’

 

BANGKOK – It is a shame that while Thailand is organizing a campaign against corruption, the latest survey result by Transparency International showed the country’s ranking has slipped.

The latest Corruption Perceptions Index survey listed Thailand at number 88 out of 176 countries surveyed. The level of corruption in Thailand is perceived to be on the same par as Malawi, Swaziland and Zambia. Thailand’s ranking slipped from 80 last year.

Although Transparency International noted that a change in methodology had made it difficult to make a comparison, the low ranking for Thailand reveals the chronic problem of widespread corruption in Thailand.

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It is sad that widespread corruption in Thailand is increasingly accepted by the public as being normal.

A series of surveys show that Thais increasingly view corruption as acceptable. A recent ABAC poll reported that a majority (63 per cent) of Thai people hold the view that corruption in government is acceptable as long as they also benefit from it. A majority of young people under 20 now hold the same attitude. The survey result has not changed from previous surveys.

The result is alarming. It shows that a majority of Thais do not place high significance on moral and righteous value. They base their opinion on the material benefit that they expect to receive. If this perception is allowed to continue and rise, widespread graft will wreak havoc on every aspect of development in Thailand.

First of all, it discourages people to strive for excellence because people are not rewarded according to quality and merit, but because of bribes and crony connections they have with decision makers. It also affects the overall capacity and competitiveness of Thailand.

More importantly, it would instil a perception that social justice is no longer important because “money rules”. If a majority of Thais place most importance on material returns, not the righteous or moral good, Thailand will become a sad place to live.

Today – December 9 – is International Anti-Corruption Day. A series of activities are set to be held to instil public awareness about the dangers of corruption.

However, this campaign seems to run against the reality in Thailand as massive corruption prevails, with people at every level in the society involved.

Everyone shares the blame for letting this happen because most people participate and allow corruption to thrive. There have been cases of companies involved in corruption scandals. But social sanctions hardly occur in Thailand especially if a graft case involves a lucrative business deal.

People tend to find an excuse to be a part of corruption or the malaise by saying that everyone does this. For instance, people who violate traffic laws often try to bribe police to get let off. Or some hire illegal unregistered maids by saying that this will help cut their cost of living. These people should realize that every small act such as this has led to severe social malaise.

The perception must be fixed and our efforts must start from individual initiatives. First, there is no excuse for anyone to engage in any bribery or corruption, regardless of the size of money involved.

People should also learn to appreciate righteousness and morality instead of admiring people with wealth without questioning where the money came from. It is not wrong to be rich. But wealth should be a reward of hard work, not corrupt money earned at the expense of others.

Awareness should be instilled in youngsters from an early age to promote responsible citizens. Thailand will not be able to progress if our society stands on weak foundations with a majority of Thais believing that it is acceptable to corrupt. – The Nation

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