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Reform needed to stop nepotism, political meddling in bureaucracy, forum hears

The bureaucracy needs to be reformed with a system to prevent nepotism and interference by politicians, a seminar held by the People's Democrat Reform Committee (PDRC) was told yesterday.

The sixth seminar on reform in Thailand, titled "Bureaucratic Reform", was held in Bangkok's Lumpini Park yesterday morning.

Panellists included former senior permanent officials who proposed labour unions, raising pay and decentralisation as moves to reform the bureaucracy.

PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban started the seminar by saying politicians in power had weakened the bureaucratic system by interfering in appointments, allowing nepotism to replace a merit system in the promotion of senior officials. The bureaucratic system was weakened because capable officials without connections quit, he said.

Sima Simanon, a former secretary-general of the Civil Service Commission, said reform would have to focus on human-resource development and distancing ties between politicians in power and the promotion of permanent officials.

Sima said good government officials should be shielded from interference by politicians so that they could stay and work for the country.

Sima also said the pay for top officials should be increased to prevent a "brain drain".

He proposed decentralisation of certain government agencies, saying only main agencies such as those dealing with security and foreign affairs should stay with the central government.

Phanchai Watanachai, a former permanent secretary for the Prime Minister's Office, said the central bureaucratic agencies should be resized and regional officials should report to local administrations so that state salary costs could be reduced.

Phanchai said the public should have a say in monitoring and balancing the policies and work of government agencies.

Asada Jayanama agreed with other panellists that the Thai bureaucracy was plagued with problems because of political interference.

Asada said permanent officials allowed themselves to become slaves of politicians in power because of patronage ties between permanent officials and politicians. He said all ministries should have labour unions, which should have a say in appointing senior officials at their ministries.

Asada said the selections of permanent officials should be transparent as well.

Pinyo Thongchai, former secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, said he supported the setting up of unions for permanent officials.

He said politicians' role in appointing senior officials should be reviewed and the monitoring system should be transparent.

Dr Chuchai Supawong, a former secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, said the promotion system weakened the bureaucratic system and caused permanent officials to lose honour.

He said officials who would like to become permanent secretaries and directors-general had to travel to meet someone abroad to get the promotions.


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