Institute denies claims it picks elite over those qualified for courses
THE KING Prajadhipok’s Institute (KPI) has been accused of promoting networking among participants of its many courses that attract the political and business elite, as well as senior bureaucrats and other important people from many circles.
Critics have said that many participants in the institute’s courses were selected because of their status rather than their qualifications. They point out that those courses are often full of people who want to make personal gain through connections and networking.
The political reform committee of the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) has called for a review of the KPI’s roles and duties, as well as a reform of its courses.
In its report presented to the NRSA, the panel suggested amendments to the 1998 law on the KPI to pave the way for the recommended reviews. With approval from the NRSA, the report will next be forwarded to the National Legislative Assembly.
The KPI has dismissed the allegations. In response to the criticism, the institute recently issued a statement denying that its courses were mainly aimed at building connections among participants.
The institute said it has many courses that encourage the improvement of local community leaders, the potential of participants in helping build a better society, and working for the public interest. Those are in addition to courses that promote moral values and self-improvement among the participants, it said.
“We would like to maintain that the King Prajadhipok’s Institute is firmly determined to truly provide knowledge for development of Thailand’s democracy,” the KPI said in its statement. The institute said that it has clear criteria in selecting participants of its training courses, and its committee members consist |mainly of experts.
The KPI has a total of 28 training courses mainly focusing on public administration, democracy, law and management. The number of course participants ranges from 70 to 140. The tuition fee for certain courses is high – up to Bt59,000 and Bt75,000 each.
Seree Suwanpanont, chairman of the NRSA’s political reform committee, said that despite its many years of existence, the KPI had failed to help improve the standard of Thai politics.
“Also, the institute’s structure is full of influential figures in parliamentary circles. So nobody want to bother with them, although there are a lot of problems. There are so many courses and most of them are used to build connections for the benefit of the participants,” he said.
The KPI, which is a unit under the Parliament, has been in operation since 1998. The report by Seree’s panel calls for different groups of people, such as politicians and senior bureaucrats, to be enrolled in separate courses, as a way to prevent them from building connections.
Thavinvadee Burikul, an executive member of the KPI and director of its research and development unit, said it was difficult to prevent participants from building up connections and networking, as it was their personal business. But she admitted that there were some weak points in the institute’s courses that needed to be rectified. She said the focus would be more on improving the participants’ awareness of the public interest and encouraging them to serve social causes. She said it was true that some participants were selected to attend the KPI’s courses because of their connections.
“But they need to be fully qualified and have to undergo an interview test in line with the institute’s regulations,” she said, adding that people from the same family were not allowed to attend the same course.
Political activist Sombat Boonngamanong, who attended a KPI course on peace building, said that networking among the participants does exist but he did not think that it was a serious problem.
He also said it was not a secret that some participants were selected because of their connections. To solve the problem, he suggested that the selection committee be truly transparent. The red-shirt activist backed KPI offering its courses to a wider group of people – and not just a limited group, as is the case today.