Thailand needs to step forward boldly to dismantle the patriarchal political structure and rid itself of corruption, a seminar was told yesterday.
Experts said the nation needs improved government procurement laws, public access to information and better laws to ensure transparency regarding officials’ assets.
People should feel empowered to stand up against the abuse of power and patronage system, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) resident director Marc Saxer said.
He was speaking at aseminar jointly organised by FES and the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) on “Democracy, Corruption and Reform: How to Topple Corruption with Democracy?”.
The Thai middle class had sided with the elites while other aspects of society struggled to pull themselves up to the next level, Mr Saxer said.
Thanee Chaiwat, Chulalongkorn University economics lecturer, said Thailand was not only facing a middle-income trap but also a corruption trap, and it was a tricky question as to what extent the country could carry on in this situation.
Taiwan and Hong Kong may offer a positive example of places that could boost economic growth while maintaining some level of democracy, Mr Thanee said. They showed that both were possible to have at once.
“The success in each society is how well and how fast they can manage the speed of democracy. Now, Thailand is trapped in the middle of the hill and we still cannot upgrade to higher incomes and a less corrupt society,” Mr Thanee said.
He said accountability through checks and balance mechanisms such as exposure of public information and improving government procurement and assets declarations were needed.
Thammasat University political science lecturer Prajak Kongkirati, said society was trapped with the false choice of fighting corruption first and democracy later.
Many misunderstood that one-party-rule countries such as China and Singapore were the only available models.
“There are 50 to 60 more nations in the world such as the Nordic countries that have both a good economy and democracy without having to relinquish one or the other,” Mr Prajak said.
He said the direct way to address corruption was to dismantle the patriarchal political structure which gave birth to easy and cheaper costs of bribery.
It also gave rise to a sense of convenience among bureaucrats and politicians alike.
TDRI president Somkiat Tangkitvanich said Thailand would experience less corruption only when it had a complete democracy which features free and fair elections and an effective checks and balances system.
He said parliament had failed to perform its role as a checks-and-balances mechanism against executive power, with one such example being parliament’s inability to examine the rice-pledging scheme.
First published: Bangkok Post, November 6, 2014