National Anti-Corruption Commission given more power

NACC5Thailand’s watchdog on graft got a bigger bite last week when legislators passed a law giving the National Anti-Corruption Commission the power to launch investigations on its own against those suspected of illegal activity without having to wait for a third party to file a complaint.

Until now, the agency had to wait for police, prosecutors or other investigative agencies to file complaints and request a probe into alleged graft or corruption. That left open the possibility that cases would not be pursued because of corruption, conflicts of interest or political influence at those law enforcement agencies.

Meechai Ruchupan, the head of the Constitution Drafting Commission that also wrote the draft of the new organic law governing the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) said the bill would make the Commission more transparent, efficient and effective. The NACC is an independent agency, unlike police and other law enforcement organizations.

Fighting corruption is a cornerstone policy of the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The Prime Minister has transferred or fired dozens of government officials suspected of graft.

In 2016, the Prayut government established a special court to solely handle cases involving corrupt officials. It was one of three special courts founded to focus on extremely serious problems facing the nation, the other two being human trafficking and drug trafficking.

Laws have also been changed to allow for prosecutions of those who offer or pay bribes, as well as those who solicit or receive them.

Corruption is a deeply ingrained problem that has affected every Thai government and takes time to solve. While the Prime Minister has set a positive tone and examples, his campaign has achieved satisfactory results so far.

Local surveys on corruption have found that native businesspeople feel the problem has improved in recent years, although they still regard corruption as a significant problem.

In a recent high-profile case, a former head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand was sentenced last week to 66 years in prison for soliciting a $2 million bribe from a foreign company for the rights to organize and host the Bangkok International Film Festival in from 2002 through 2007.