Corruption at all levels of society is endemic and slowly strangling Thailand; it's time to take a stand before we choke to death.
This month the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is going to select members for all provinces except Bangkok, which has commissioners.
Applications closed on Tuesday and the selection process will be carried out for the first 32 provinces on July 17, and for the remaining 44 provinces on July 24.
The applicants are required to be "evidently honest" and show their credentials in supporting the fight against corruption. They must be between 45 and 70. Successful applicants will be stationed at the NACC office in the province where they applied and will serve as provincial members for four years.
Twelve larger provinces each have five provincial members - Khon Kaen, Chon Buri, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Buri Ram, Roi Et, Si Sa Ket, Songkhla, Surin, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani. The remaining provinces have three members each.
The anti-graft agency is placing high hopes on these provincial members. Prasart Pongsivapai, one of the nine commissioners, said having members in every province represents a new era in the agency's fight against corruption.
"Provincial NACC members come from the people, and we believe that they will help reduce irregularities in state agencies in their areas, particularly within local administrative organisations," he said.
Their work will focus on examining and verifying the financial reports of local politicians, and on encouraging citizens with knowledge of irregularities or corruption to inform them directly.
However, Prasart also cautions that the NACC should ensure that provincial members do not allow themselves to be influenced by politicians or local groups or individuals with vested interests.
Corruption at all levels of society continues to be a serious problem for Thailand. Public officials, from junior civil servants and policemen to top bureaucrats and Cabinet members, are regularly accused of graft, and many of them have been convicted for corruption and sentenced to terms of imprisonment or other punishment.
On the global scale, Thailand ranks dreadfully in terms of transparency, often among countries at a similar stage of economic advancement. Recent surveys by eight leading organisations promoting government transparency have found that the Kingdom's performance has worsened in recent years. This is because there have been large-scale irregularities in government policies, often facilitated by legal loopholes, according to NACC member Klanarong Chanthick. "Corruption is badly undermining the country's economic, political and social systems. Irregularities in Thailand tend to get more serious and complex," he said.
In many cases nowadays, corruption is not simply the result of trying to mitigate the problems caused by a low salary or high debt, as was often the case in the past. For many wealthy politicians and officials now, corruption boils down to simple greed and never knowing how much is enough. Vasit Dejkunchorn, a former deputy national police chief, has called these greedy politicians "kleptocrats" and warned that, if nothing is done to rein them in, they might eventually turn Thailand into a kleptocracy - a country ruled by thieves.
To fight corruption effectively, responsible officials have to enforce the anti-graft law and other relevant legislation strictly and fairly. In addition to the NACC, the police, public prosecutors, judges and other officials should become serious and sincere about fighting corruption.
With all the authorities involved taking part seriously, there can be hope that instances of corruption will at least be reduced in the future. It is impossible for corruption to be completely stamped out from our nation. But, as a matter of urgency, we should try to curb it as much and as best as we can.