Calls for reform of public records law
Access to information should be the top priority for Thailand to undergo a reform to tackle corruption, said a researcher at a Bangkok seminar.
Deunden Nikomborirak, the research director for economic governance at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), said the public should use information as a tool to fight against corruption. But the government has failed to provide figures regarding its policies.
Thailand has many organisations set up to counter corruption such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), the Anti-Money Laundering Office and the Office of the Auditor-General, but corruption is still increasing.
“In the end, independent organisations still have to ask for money from the government, so they are not really independent after all,” she said.
“How is it possible that we don’t know these things? The country’s budget is public information. This is really terrible.”
Thailand’s Official Information Act of 1997 does not punish state enterprises that fail to provide information to the public, but there is a clear penalty for the disclosure of secret information. People can file for disclosure from the Office of the Official Information Commission.
The law should be reformed to be in line with international practices, Mrs Deunden told a seminar on corruption indicators hosted by the TDRI yesterday.
Thailand slipped in the Corruption Perceptions Index to 102nd out of 177 countries last year, down from a ranking of 60th in 2001.
According to a TDRI study that has yet to be published, PTT Exploration and Production Plc and IRPC Plc, two listed companies supervised by the Energy Ministry, earned the lowest score of zero in terms of visibility, content quality and data searchability regarding procurement.
“Basically, they do not provide any information regarding procurement,” said Tippatrai Saelawong, a researcher at the TDRI who conducted the study last year with Mrs Deunden.
The Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, operating under the Finance Ministry, received the highest score of 92.
Sirilaksana Khoman, the NACC’s chairwoman for the prevention of economic sector corruption, said the agency’s budget has been cut by 60% from 1 billion baht in previous years.
The NACC has published reports on government transparency for two years, which ranks hundreds of state departments and bureaus using seven indicators, including public access to information.
Suvicha Pao-aree, poll director at the National Institute of Development Administration, said the private sector should take the lead in countering corruption.
“No one would want to pay money to reduce their money-making channels, so I don’t think we should depend on the government to try and solve this problem,” he said.
First published: Bangkok Post, March 11, 2014