Brown Bag Lecture Series

Fighting Corruption in Thailand: Thaksin as a Case

Monday, 5 April 2010

Co-sponsor: Southeast Asian Student Initiative

Medhi Krongkaew, a Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Thailand, discussed the creation of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) in Thailand, the need for the NACC, and how the NACC has impacted the government of Thailand.

The impetus for a special organization to handle public sector corruption occurred in 1975, after Thailand moved from a military dictatorship to a democracy. Unfortunately, because the agency was not independent from the Prime Minister’s Office, it was primarily considered a ‘paper tiger’ for nearly 25 years. Moreover, the agency only was given the power of recommendation, not punishment. In 1997, a new Constitution was drafted and enacted; it included extensive popular participation and it allowed for the establishment of the current NCCC (National Counter Corruption Commission) in 1999. Consisting of 9 members, the first NCCC worked for 4.5 years according to the provision in the Constitution. The Second Commission began work in 2004, but its members were disbanded and arrested within the year on illegality charges. It was not until after the coup in 2006 that the Third Commission took office. Because the coup leaders appointed the whole Commission, the group has suffered various threats and abuses, including witch doctor curses, lawsuits, and bombings. In 2008, the Commission was renamed the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to better reflect the agency’s function.

Professor Krongkaew believes that the NACC has a strong role to play in regulating the Thai government because of the high rate of corruption in the country. Fortunately, the NACC has significant power, with jurisdiction over all state officials; it can subpoena relevant documents and require officials to submit their assets and debt declarations. This requirement is important because, within Thailand, if a state official cannot explain the source of their income/wealth, they can be charged with having ‘unusual wealth’ and their assets can be confiscated.

Lastly, the NACC has left a strong impact on Thailand’s government through its indictments of higher-level politicians, which the Commission prefers to deal with since they have the ability to set precedents for Thailand’s legal system. The NACC’s largest case thus far has been the indictment of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinnawatra in 2008 on various counts of corruption.

Despite the antagonistic environment in which the Commissioners are working, Krongkaew believes that they must uphold the three guiding principles (“the three Ps”) of the NACC: Punishment, Prevention, and Promotion. Apart from the corruption cases, he stressed that the NACC’s most significant contribution is the promotion of honesty and integrity among the general public. This event was moderated by Michael Buehler.