The Land office is the most corrupt agency in the Thai bureaucracy, while police are ranked second in this dubious list where households needed to make illegal payments to facilitate their service, according to an academic survey.
The survey titled "Corruption in the Thai Bureaucracy in 2014: A Survey of Attitudes and Experiences of Heads of Households" by Chulalongkorn University's Pasuk Phongpaichit found that 7.2 per cent of 6,048 heads of Thai households said they were asked for a bribe by officials at land offices whenever contacted for a service, while 6.1 per cent said police personnel asked for money from them.
Land offices, which come under the Department of Lands, are the key agency for all transactions and documentation involving sale or purchase of land. The office is authorised to charge a fee but officials demand extra money to speed up work or legalise some grey documents, the survey revealed.
The Departments of Customs and Land Transport also took bribes, but only 2.4 and 1.9 per cent respectively of households in the survey said they needed to offer bribes to officials for their services, Pasuk said.
However, on a relatively positive note, she said the percentage of respondents who said they had to pay tea money to officials at the land offices, police, Customs and Transport departments had decreased from 12.3 per cent, 8.5 per cent, 10.3 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively, in the previous survey in 1999.
The survey also revealed that the land office was the only bribe-taking agency in the bureaucracy that demanded more than Bt100,000 (S$4,000) per head on average, Pasuk said. The police as well as the departments of Customs and Revenue also charge big amounts but the bribes average between Bt10,000 and Bt100,000, she said.
Public schools and local administrative organisations have also been pointed to as taking bribes from households, she said.
Officials at public schools seek bribes averaging Bt11,796 each time they are contacted for service, the Department of Customs demands an average of Bt10,538, the land-office bribes average Bt5,341, and police take Bt4,919 on average from each household, she said. Local administrations demanded only Bt1,000 on average, she said.
The survey estimated that total bribes taken by the land offices this year amounted to Bt1.9 billion, the police Bt1.7 billion and public schools Bt640 million, she said. Overall, Thai households paid bribes of Bt4.9 billion to 10 government agencies, according to the survey this year. However, she noted the amount was three times less than the last survey in 1999.
"Thai households in the survey gave importance to the problem of corruption but did not consider it more important than their own economic and income difficulties.
"Corruption is a chronic problem in the country and Thai households are less trustful of the media, the judiciary and the bureaucracy on this issue.
"Most of the survey respondents said they wanted to see tough punishment for corrupt officials and wanted the government to give priority to anti-corruption measures more than other issues," she said.
Department of Lands deputy director-general Wanit Intarak said the department was aware of the bad reputation of the land offices because of the bribery. It is difficult for the department to control as many as 800 offices and units under its jurisdiction, he said. "But we have inspected and boosted ethics and morality among officials to prevent corruption. We also use information technology in the management system to limit the opportunity for officials to take bribes."
Pol Colonel Mongkol Ketphan of the national police office said the Royal Thai Police had opened channels for people to lodge complaints on the work of the police to eliminate corruption from police stations.