March 07, 2014 00:00 By Takayuki Kanaboshi
Corruption has become a part of people's mindset here in Thailand, where "cheating" is tolerated, Chalermchai Boonyaleepun, president of Srinakharinwirot University, told a seminar on Wednesday.
In the discussion on combating corruption, National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) member Vicha Mahakun and Sompol Kiatphaibool, chairman of the Stock Exchange of Thailand and vice chairman of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, placed their hopes on the media.
They were speaking at the 59th anniversary celebration of the Thai Journalists Association (TJA).
Chalermchai said that according to a survey he conducted on more than 640,000 students, 47.9 per cent said they had copied assignments and only 43 per cent found this “slightly wrong”. Upon seeing another student cheating, only 7.2 per cent said they would inform the teacher, while 30.7 per cent would pretend it never happened.
The survey also found that 3 per cent did not find anything wrong with not payin g back their student loans, as “they need the money and there’s nothing wrong with giving money to those who need it”.
This attitude was also found in working adults as well, with 29.5 per cent of public servants saying they spend some of their time at work doing personal jobs.
Chalermchai calculated that if one teacher wasted 20 per cent of their working hours over the course of their career, it would cost the public Bt1.7 million.
Judging from the number of teachers in the state system, they could cost Bt2 trillion for the hours wasted, he said.
Chalermchai blamed this mindset on external influences such as family, friends and news sources, adding that parents should make their children understand that cheating will not be tolerated.
Sompol admitted that corruption was the biggest problem in Thailand. This was highlighted by the fact that all the awards handed out by the TJA were related to reports on corruption scandals.
Vicha said graft was so rife in Thailand that it would take the NACC more than a lifetime to handle all the cases.
He added that corruption was so deeply ingrained, that those who do not work within the system will be “kicked out”.
Citing the fact that some countries have managed to curb corruption in a relatively short period of time, Sompol suggested that transparency, a strong investigation systems and strict punishments were necessary.
Vicha said investigative journalism was important in the fight against corruption as he cited the case of young Brazilian journalists relying on social media to effectively report on graft.
He went on to say that one should not rely on politicians to fight graft, but put their hopes on civil society. For instance, he said, South Korea had thousands of organisations that monitor and investigate corruption in both the public and private sector.
The ideal, he says, is the Singaporean approach to transparency, where the government practices an open and transparent approach to all business matters, which makes corruption impossible.
Thailand is ranked 102 out of 177 countries listed in the corruption perception index.