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Asean Affairs   18 July  2011

Corruption is still a key regional issue

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     18 July 2011

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Corruption at the national government level in Asean countries still remains a cancer that breeds mistrust of government by its citizens, drains the coffers of needed funds and retards national development. Today’s news brings ample evidence of this plague.

In Cambodia, the top anti-drug police official in Phnom Penh was sentenced to 12 years in prison for hoarding a supply of illegal drugs and for receiving bribes to let convicted drug offenders skip out of jail.

Not to be out done, Cambodia’s Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation has been told to repay an estimated US$5.5 million it paid to “ghost officials” and used in “irregular expenses”.

Officials were found to have stolen money from the pensions of dead and retired civil servants, but no arrests were to be made at the time, Cambodian Premier Hun Sen said.

Just across the border in Thailand, however, in a public opinion poll 65.3 percent of respondents wanted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to have no involvement in the Cabinet formation because his opponents could stage political turmoil or a coup.

Another reason might also be that during Thaksin’ s previous term six-year term of office, “crony capitalism” was widespread, causing a flowering of corruption starting with the prime minister, himself.

In Thai government, top ministerial appoints are highly coveted as their budgets can be used to siphon funds into private pockets. It’s a worldwide issue, but it seems particularly difficult to combat in Asean.

Cambodia’s initiatives provide ample evidence that effective steps can be taken and the poll of Thai citizens shows there is concern over what personalities will take up ministerial positions.

The results of the recent poll are likely to have little influence on what actually occurs in selecting a new Thai Cabinet, however.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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