BANGKOK – Anti-Corruption Network (ACN) this year has become a key organization that has shed unprecedented light on corruption in Thailand. This group, comprising entities from the public and private sectors, is pushing hard in its campaign against corruption at the corporate and national levels, with the ultimate goal of ensuring fairness to all Thais and lifting the country’s image globally.
At a glance, Thailand is not the worst nation in terms of corruption, ranked 88th in 2012 among 176 countries in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.‘We must be patient and constantly deny the temptation of corruption.’ DUSIT NONTANAKORN, Late chairman of the Board of Trade and Thai Chamber of Commerce
However, the perceived level of public-sector corruption puts the kingdom on the same level as Malawi, Morocco, Suriname, Swaziland and Zambia. Worse, in the past 10 years, Thailand’s ranking has been sliding, with its chances of ever catching up with the top 20 slim at best, let alone reaching the top spot alongside Finland.
Corruption is a serious and systemic problem in Thailand. A recent Abac Poll reported that most (63.4 percent) Thai people believe that corruption in government is acceptable provided it is beneficial to them personally — a view that is also shared by many young people. This explains why corrupt politicians keep returning, sparking grave concerns about the country’s political and economic sustainability.
Among the most concerned is a group of businessmen, which was previously led by the late Dusit Nontanakorn. In his capacity as chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Dusit started steering the alliance of public and private sectors towards seriously combating corruption in 2010. His words: “Corruption is common and acceptable in Thai values. If this continues, Thailand will see its demise” became the slogan of the ACN, which was officially launched on June 1, 2011.
Under the leadership of his successor, Pramon Sutivong, the network has doubled the number of members, rising from 23 organizations at the start to 46 at present. It is a major private-sector group led by a consortium of Thai businesspeople and more than 30 industry associations, which include the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Thai Bankers’ Association, the Federation of Thai Industries and the Stock Exchange of Thailand. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) became the first international member.
The network won huge support when it pressured BEC World, the publicly listed operator of television Channel 3, to take action against its media personality Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda, who faces legal action by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for alleged embezzlement. At the national level, the ACN is pushing for transparency in government-procurement processes, particularly in relation to bidding for the 350-billion-baht water-management project.
This followed a nationwide rally in September 2011, which gathered support from the public and private sectors, youth and actors. The ACN has also launched a number of projects to raise public awareness on good governance among individuals and institutional members of society. The White Organization Awards were presented for the first time this year in recognition of organizations with good governance. Members have been urged not to offer bribes in exchange for government projects. Every six months, in cooperation with the University of Thai Chamber of Commerce, the country’s Corruption Situation Index is revealed to provide latest updates on the state of corruption, public perception and efficiency in tackling graft. A Hotline Centre has been put in place in a move to gather tips from individuals.
These projects were launched under ACN’s promise to play three major roles — collaborator (with public organizations like the NACC, in order to establish transparent procurement process), watchdog (through supports from volunteers), and change agent (to raise awareness among all societal groups).
Also, thanks to the efforts of private companies, the Thai capital market is in third place behind Singapore and Hong Kong, according to CG Watch 2012 — a survey on corporate governance of 11 Asian capital markets conducted by the Asian Corporate Governance Association and CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets.