BANGKOK – According to the Nation Newspaper an average of US$6.42 billion (Bt192.6 billion) a year illegally flowed out of Thailand between 2001 and 2010 – and a large portion of this was believed to be earned through corruption, an anti-graft campaign group has said.
The Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand (ACT), citing results of a study by the US-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI), yesterday pointed to the seriousness of corruption in Thailand. It said the public lost the opportunity to benefit from a huge amount of money that could have been spent on social welfare, education, and wealth redistribution.
Great Loss for the Country
The illegal outflows of money were a great loss for the country. We lost the opportunity to spend it on national development,” said Thawatchai Yongkittikul, an executive member of ACT. “Corruption, therefore, is a severe threat to the country.”
He said most of the illegal financial outflow was income from corruption, crimes, the drug trade, and tax evasion.
Citing the GFI’s report “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2001-2010”, Thawatchai said illicit outflows to developed nations averaged US$586 billion (Bt17.5 trillion) per annum over the period. In 2010 alone, the outflow totalled $859 billion (Bt25.7 billion).
“Over the decade, illegal financial outflow grew six-fold, up from Bt66 billion to Bt371 billion,” Thawatchai said. He called for measures to curb the illegal outflow and to prevent possible irregularities involving expensive government projects.
Thailand ranked 13th in terms of the outflow size among the 143 developing countries studied, according to the GFI report. There are four other Asean countries in the top 20, the others being Malaysia (third place), the Philippines (6th), Indonesia (9th), and Brunei (20th).
“Asia, accounting for 61 percent of cumulative outflows, was still the main driver of such flows from developing countries,” said the report, which was released in December 2012.
ACT chairman Pramon Suthiwong said the organisation would this year focus on changing people’s lax attitude about corruption.
‘Policy corruption is the worst form of graft’
Meanwhile, the Office of Reform for Fair Society yesterday denounced “policy corruption” as the worst form of graft in Thailand.
“Policy corruption has worsened the problem of corruption in Thailand,” said Poldej Pinprateep, who heads the agency’s working group studying the graft problem.
“Graft has reached its highest point in development. Cabinet members have a lot of power under the Constitution and this makes it easy for them to become corrupt,” Poldej said.
He added that “policy corruption” is rare in wealthier Asian countries like South Korea and Taiwan, where the anti-corruption forces are stronger.
‘High Risk’ of Defense Graft
The Bangkok Post has reported that the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International listed Thailand on Tuesday as a country with inadequate safeguards against graft in defense and weapons deals.
Thailand “is at high risk of corruption in the defense sector,” said the group – along with China, Russia, Singapore and India.
Transparency International is based in Germany, but the defense report was released on Tuesday in London by Transparency International UK’s Defense and Security Program. It is available on the web at www.defenceindex.org.
Other countries were judged worse than Thailand’s high risk group by the anti-corruption agency. The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Iran and Afghanistan are among those rated at “very high risk” of corruption in arms sales and purchase.
The United States, Britain, Sweden and South Korea were among countries judged to be at low risk.
The survey looked not only at the potential for corruption in defense contracts, but also at the risk of abuse of defense budgets and the risk of corruption in the armed forces.
Thailand, it said, was not among the 10 countries with “highly effective” parliamentary scrutiny of defense policy, nor does Thailand have any laws or regulations protecting whistle blowers who expose graft in weapons purchase.
Transparency International said its defense survey covered 82 countries, which accounted for 94 per cent of global military expenditure in 2011, worth $1.6 trillion. The group estimated corruption was at least $20 billion.
The survey said corruption in weapons deals is dangerous because troops “may well have equipment that doesn’t work”, not to mention the drain on the national treasury.