Why corruption always wins in Thailand

Why corruption always wins in Thailand

The overriding, albeit subtle, idea used to be that politicians, especially those in power, needed some protection against graft charges, or their rivals would play games and allegations would cripple the entire system to the point that nothing else would matter.

Parliament would be totally overwhelmed by corruption charges, which would be the only thing the media talked about, and government would be brought to a standstill.

That led to Parliament's corruption-related censure becoming something seasonal, despite the fact that graft is anything but. But even that was just a tiny part of what was wrong with Thailand's fight against corruption. We have had a dilemma of whether to criminalise this evil entirely or "politicise" it at least partly.

On the one hand, corruption is supposed to be a criminal offence, which is why the courts were empowered to play a big role.

On the other hand, we had corruption cases decided by Parliament, a situation where "evidence" was not as important as who commanded more votes in the national assembly.

It's no surprise, then, that the Thai crisis has always featured clashes between Parliament and the courts. With democracy espousing the values of what the majority think, a glaring spotlight was always on what a bunch of judges considered to be right or wrong.

Also under scrutiny were the elected politicians themselves, who were accused of using the popular mandate to whitewash what was, when all masks were removed, undeniably fraud. And this was compounded by the next problem.

In our campaigns against corruption, prejudice and bias have infected all sides. In Thailand, the term "justice" is not used to proclaim innocence.

Here, "justice" is used to point out that "Other people are doing it, so why pick on me?" This attitude is worrisome, but it stems from the laws or measures not being applied indiscriminately.

To sum it up, practically everyone is to blame for the failure of Thailand's fight against corruption. Anti-graft enforcement has been selective.

Politicians have used democracy as a shield to protect their crimes rather than as a weapon to eradicate the problem. And the last thing that should be politicised became heavily politicised.

It has become a chicken-and-egg situation. For example, the fact that enforcement has been selective has encouraged politicians to hide behind democracy even more.

And the fact that politicians were hiding behind the results of the ballot has galvanised their rivals, leading to legal bias and prejudice.

Entrust courts with the anti-graft battle and we face the question, where's the indiscriminate application of the law?

If Parliament should decide who cheated the country and who did not, who was the last minister who was voted out of office by elected representatives?

So, who should "shape up" - the judges, or members of Parliament?

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