Sufficiency economy projects and corruption

20 01 2010

Update: The Bangkok Post (20 January 2010) reports that the first investigation into Thai khem kaeng (Strengthening Thailand) projects are just beginning in the Ministry of Education. At the moment it is an internal inquiry. This inquiry is worth following, although the external pressure is not as significant as in the Ministry of Public Health case.

The Post also calls for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to be more open and transparent. It calls for him to release reports on the Ministry of Public Health and Thai Airways scandals. It says: “For a government that occasionally pledges openness and accountability, the actions of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his subordinates in two recent cases must raise eyebrows.” Importantly, it is added: “Abhisit should order their public release, and should also make members of the Banlu commission and the airline’s investigating committee available for close media questioning. These are rapidly becoming cases where justice may seem to have been done. But without full access to the reports Mr Abhisit used as the basis for punishment, no one can know if justice is actually being done.” An excellent point.

*** Original post is below ***

As regular PPT readers will know, we have repeatedly posted regarding the accusations of corruption within the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects since 8 August 2009. We followed up on that first report with more detail on 19 August 2009, and continued to post after that, especially as the projects disappeared from the news. That disappearing act followed the appointment of well-known royalist MechaiViravaidya to take charge of the Office .

In these sufficiency economy scandal, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Korbsak Sabhavasu resigned his role as chair of the Office and his brother, who was deputy head of the Office resigned, but there was no accounting of the corruption that was exposed. It was announced in October that Korbsak would step down as Deputy PM to become Abhisit Vejjajiva’s secretary-general. That only happened this week. No better than a slap on the wrist for an incompetent and allegedly corrupt minister.

Now Mechai has finally made comments that have been reported (The Nation, 19 January 2010).

Mechai is reported as saying that he will “reveal guidelines on fund allocation to district chiefs nationwide. He said these guidelines should minimise corruption because provisions have been made for those involved in graft to face criminal charges.” Interesting comment for it appears to admit corruption (but see below) and, second, seems to say that there were no measures for criminal charges previously. Is that serious? There are umpteen opportunities to bring civil charges and to seek anti-corruption agency investigation.

More interestingly, though, Mechai dismissed the earlier reports of corruption as a public relations problem: “Mechai attributed the negative news to poor public relations and lack of public understanding and participation.

Mechai plans to change this by having “anybody above the age of 15 … [being able to] voice their opinion. This is the first time that the country’s youth, numbering about 5 million, will offer opinions on how the Bt18.6-billion government budget should be allocated…” says Mechai. He also plans a “nationwide referendum for most-needed projects”. In addition, referendum “participants will be encouraged to point to all traces of corruption. At the same time, Mechai has decided that the budget will be used to first help the poor and the underprivileged, not purchase equipment.Mechai added that: “Different opinions are welcome, and a second round of the referendum is possible.

Mechai is a PR specialist. Is PR sufficient? Nationwide referenda will trump local needs assessments? Is this really the way to deal with this particular example of corruption? Thai Crisis also comments here.


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10 02 2010
Abhisit and the royalists « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] appointed another palace acolyte in Mechai Viravaidya to look after all the corruption troubles at the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects. His PR skills and palace connections seem to have […]

5 12 2010
Loyalty or blindness? | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] should adhere to the King’s sufficiency economy philosophy.”What has happened with that corrupt Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects (see here also) that Abhisit promoted for a moment? Abhisit has genuflected to sufficiency economy […]




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