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‘Bt200-bn bribery industry’ forces Thailand to fall on corruption index

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BRIBERY IS a huge industry in Thailand with estimated revenue of Bt200 billion annually, prominent banker Banyong Pongpanich said yesterday.

Speaking in his capacity as a board member of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand – which held a
seminar on the Rolls-Royce bribery case that allegedly involves Thai Airways International (THAI) and PTT –
Banyong said bribery was a large and expanding industry that involved many people who were earning their
living as “coordinators” in the sale of goods to state agencies
Based on a reported 8-per-cent commission rate, the bribery industry in Thailand could be worth Bt200 billion
as the expenses of state firms amounted to over Bt2 trillion annually, he said.
“The bribery process stretches very far. It is not only involving state enterprises but it has always existed in state
agencies and continues to expand because no one has ever been caught,” Banyong said.
“[If you ask me] if the industry disappeared with the coup d’etat, this is a question that I won’t answer.” 
Banyong, a former board member of THAI, said the problems not only involved officers of state enterprises
but “people who have superior power over the organisations”.
“Authorities, either politicians or others who get into power by any method, have the power over the
procurements [of state agencies],” he said. 
To truly tackle the issue, Banyong suggested Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should implement “institutional
reform” of governance systems of state enterprises by April as scheduled. The plan involves a new law to
separate the roles of policymakers, regulators and operators. 
National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) secretary-general Sansern Poljieak said the agency was
gathering information on the Rolls-Royce case from local and foreign sources and had reported some findings to
its board of commissioners on Tuesday.
Regarding a proposal that the prime minister should exercise absolute power under Article 44 of the interim
charter to allow the NACC to directly contact foreign agencies, Sansern said that while it would speed up the
NACC’s work, it might jeopardise other laws and international protocols.
Asked if the NACC would be able to identify the wrongdoers in the Rolls-Royce scandal, Sansern said:
“Maybe.”
Professor Medhi Krongkaew, a former NACC commissioner, told the seminar that investigations to identify
people involved in the Rolls-Royce case should not be difficult as reports by anti-graft agencies in the United
Kingdom and the United States included specific details and incidents.
He said the NACC would shortly release further information on more Thai organisations that have been
involved in bribes with foreign companies. 
However, Sansern declined to confirm whether there would be more revelations.
THAI’s executive vice president Kanok Thongpurk said the airlines’ board – which has appointed two
committees to probe the Rolls-Royce case and its procurement procedures – has taken the issue seriously and
would not “pull any punches” in their investigation.
He said THAI might file a lawsuit for damages caused to the airline regarding the purchase of overpriced
engines as a result of the alleged bribery fees.
PTT chief executive Tevin Vongvanich told the seminar the energy giant might also resort to legal action for
damages caused by the alleged bribes.
He said foreign suppliers who wanting to do business with PTT would be required to register their
representatives and agents with the company.
The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has alleged there was a conspiracy to corrupt or a failure to prevent
bribery by Rolls-Royce in seven countries including China, India and Thailand.
In regards to Thailand, the firm admitted to paying more than US$36 million (Bt1.3 billion) between 1991 and
2005 to agents to help it to secure three separate contracts to supply Trent airplane engines to THAI. 
In a separate US action, the Department of Justice claims that Rolls-Royce had paid more than $11m in corrupt
commissions, knowing part of the money would be used to bribe officials at PTT and its subsidiary PTT
Exploration and Production. 
The payments spanned a decade from about 2003 to 2013 and were related to contracts for equipment and
after-market products and services, the US department alleged.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the latest corruption perception index launched by
Transparency International needed to be looked at in detail to determine why scores had dropped.
“It’s not that all are bad, don’t look at Thailand like that,” Prayut said, arguing that the fight against corruption
had actually been strengthened because he had ordered investigations if cases are raised.
In the Berlin-based Transparency International’s index, Thailand dropped to a base score of 35, standing at the
101st rank among countries on the list.
The worsening score was attributed political turmoil, the organisation’s report said, adding that government
repression, a lack of independent oversight and the deterioration of rights had eroded the public’s confidence
in the country.
The report found that the majority of countries in the Asia-Pacific were ranked in the bottom half of the 2016
index, while 19 out of 30 countries in the region scored 40 or less out of 100. 
More than two-thirds of the 176 countries and territories worldwide in the index fell below the midpoint of the
scale from zero, “highly corrupt”, to 100, “very clean”. The global average score was a paltry 43, indicating
endemic corruption in the public sector worldwide. 
Top-scoring countries were far outnumbered by corruption-plagued countries where citizens faced tangible
consequences from corruption on a daily basis, the report said.

Published : January 25, 2017

By : PICHAYA CHANGSORN THE NATION