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Are our leaders serious about ethical standards?

The Constitution has a chapter about the ethics of political office holders and state officials. Article 279 states: "Ethical standards of persons holding political positions, government officials or state officials in each type shall be in accordance with the ethical standards prescribed."

After the post-coup charter became effective in 2007, state agencies were required to ensure that their code of ethical conduct applied to their personnel. There were hopes that political office holders and state officials would have a higher ethical standard than simply following the laws.

The charter states that violation or non-observance of the ethical standards prescribed shall be deemed a disciplinary breach. And for political office holders, breach of ethical standards shall be deemed grounds for removal.

These clauses appear to be a serious move against violators of ethical standards in the government, the legislature and the bureaucracy. But in fact only junior officials face disciplinary action due to this constitutional provision - while senior officials, parliamentarians and Cabinet members manage to be spared punishment for breach of their institutions' ethical standards.

MPs who used profanity or viewed pornography during parliamentary meetings did not get even a warning after their cases were brought to the Parliament's ethics committee.

In the latest case involving a senior official, the Office of the Ombudsman resolved that Metropolitan Police commissioner Pol Lt-General Camronwit Toopgrajank violated the Royal Thai Police's ethical standards for having fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra pin his insignia of rank on him shortly after he was promoted last year. Camronwit reportedly met Thaksin in Hong Kong.

Thaksin has been living in self-exile overseas to escape imprisonment at home. He fled in 2008, not long before the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders sentenced him to two years in jail for abuse of power.

National Police chief Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew said he had just received the Office of the Ombudsman's written request for him to take action over Camronwit's case. Adul then assigned the Royal Thai Police's Office of the Inspector-General to look into the matter.

Camronwit's colleagues have shown sympathy for him. They said it was normal for a police officer to have someone he respects pin the insignia on him, and they saw nothing wrong with the Metropolitan Police chief doing so. However, they appear to have ignored the fact that in this case, it was a senior police officer meeting with a fugitive wanted by Thai law.

It remains to be seen what action the police will take in regard to Camronwit's case. Critics have suspected the stance taken and the viewpoint made by certain senior officers may be indicative of a result. If that is the case, the Office of the Ombudsman has no power other than to report the case to Parliament and allow this case to fade away and die down, just like similar cases in the past.

People may ask, however, whether the politicians and officials involved are serious about complying with the constitutional clauses aimed at heightening the ethical standards in this country.

Attayuth@nationgroup.com




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