THE Museum of Thai Corruption - with its statues that depict one of our worst vices - has been set up to rouse both public awareness and spark the nation's shame for being so widespread.
Now, supporters say it should become high-impact exhibition that is put on tour for greater publicity, setting up where crowds gather for an even more effective campaign.
The museum has been created at a time when several surveys revealed society to be in desperate straits from corruption. Its organisers hope to offset an idea prevalent among many Thais who believe corrupt activity is acceptable, as long as they benefit from it.
The roaming museum presented its statues at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) from September 15 – 27 and was met with enthusiasm. It drew a large number of young people and urban workers, both Thais and foreigners, to learn about true-life corruption cases that involved not only politicians but also civil servants and even a television personality.
Museum-goers captured images of the sculptures with their phone cameras as if they were rare art pieces.
The Museum of Thai Corruption was set up last month, founded by a non-profit organisation – Anti-Corruption Thailand – to showcase 10 corruption cases through the roving exhibition of 10 sculptures.
The cases highlighted featured the rice-pledging scheme, the construction of police stations, the construction of a footsal stadium, the Raisom media corruption case, the Bangkok Film Festival kickback case, the unusually rich case against a former Transport Ministry permanent secretary, the Klong Dan wastewater treatment plant, the case of imported luxury cars, the dried longan subsidy scheme and case of advertising billboards on police boxes.
Critics say to expose corruption in a museum is bold and unconventional. And while the presentation of sculptures to expose corruption was innovative, it lacked details for those who attended to learn more about each corruption case.
“Some corruption cases shown here are very complicated. Details should be given on how corruption is carried out since it is interesting,” one person at the event said.
To instil awareness about fighting corruption among as many people as possible, the museum should be shown simultaneously in every province across the country and not just in the capital.
“The museum needs better PR work. I had not heard about it but stumbled upon the museum accidentally here,’’ another critic who visited the museum said.
A former reporter who visited the museum complimented the organisers for the goal they aimed to achieve, effectively raising the impact of the anti-corruption campaign. She said the exhibit should be shown at places where many people gather, like shopping malls, parks and exhibition centres.
“It is not Thai culture to visit museums, so the display should be presented where it can be easily seen by masses all year round, such as by moving it to different malls,” she said.
“After seeing the exhibition, to effectively instil a culture of opposing corruption among youths, parents must talk to their children about corruption not being acceptable and how it must be condemned,” she said.
One person at the BACC gave thumbs up to the exhibition, saying he believed it would change some Thais’ attitude that corruption is acceptable. The exhibition portrayed corruption as a social illness and highlighted the huge damage that corruption can bring about.
But some critics were sceptical as to why museum organisers chose to expose corruption cases, some of which are still on trial and some still being investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Commission. The courts have not ruled on most of the cases. Organisers did not name the alleged corrupt individuals involved in the 10 cases, but people still have wondered if there are political motives behind the presentation.
But Pramon Sutivong, chairman of Anti-Corruption Thailand, argued that the NACC resolved that corruption had taken place, while the Attorney General filed indictments against the individuals allegedly involved and courts had accepted these cases for hearing. This meant the 10 cases had grounds for graft claims and were worthy of public attention.
Pramon defended the exhibition, saying the 10 cases presented were chosen to show the complex nature of corruption, the diversity of issues, the variety of alleged individuals and not the political context.
“We did not aim to attack any particular political camp. We cover various governments not just the Pheu Thai or the Democrats. We did not aim to mislead or misguide the public about the corruption trials we only present facts,” he said.
More new corruption allegations will be presented to the museum. For example, corruption cases in the military such as in the airship procurement, the GT 200 bomb detection device, and the Krung Thai loan extension to the Krisda Mahanakorn group – where the court ruled recently to sentence a former Krung Thai Bank executive to long jail terms, Pramon said.