Thai government digs deeper for corruption

In what is very clearly digging deeper than the topsoil, Prime Minister Abhisit targets local governments for graft. Politically motivated or not, the Thais who live in Pro Thaksin country are about to get a taste of what cleaning up corruption looks like.

It is hard to say if this was planned or just timed well by climate change flooding, but Prime Minister Abhisit is for perhaps the first time in Thai history going after the middle men of corruption. But when you look at how things unfolded, it is clear that this could also be part of a massive sting operation.

The Thai government has provided about 5000 Baht per family for flood relief. That itself is just the right thing to do. Getting that money to the desperate Thais in need could be done with a simple bank transfer and eliminate the middle men. But instead they placed the money in greedy hands to be disbursed. When the money never arrived at the final destination, the rest is easy to figure out.

Politically this is timed well showing that local governments loyal to Thaksin are doing exactly what Thaksin was doing to Thailand. Once the money starts to get to the hands of the people direct from the Abhisit government, it will be difficult for the lesser educated Thais to once again support Thaksin and his cronies taking their cut from money that they have no business touching.

Quoting the Nation;

The government will take back Bt52 billion in flood relief funds if the money is not spent on projects already approved, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told a business seminar yesterday.

The money had been partly allotted from a central fund at the request of relief agencies and ministries – but not yet fully spent or even distributed to certain agencies who had not submitted their spending plans to the government.

“The ministries and departments who have not yet spent the money or resubmitted their projects for funding approval will need to send the money back to the government,” he said.

The PM said Thailand’s economic growth could reach 7.9 per cent this year, despite heavy flooding across the country and huge spending on relief assistance and restoration.

Meanwhile, the arrests of officials in the Northeast accused of benefiting illegally from disaster and flood preventive plans will begin next week in Sakon Nakhon, the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) said yesterday.

The arrests and criminal prosecutions would continue in Roi Et, Kalasin, Udon Thani, and Nakhon Phanom, where corruption relating to disaster and flood preventive plans had been under PACC investigation for almost a year.

The PACC has detected three irregularities in the five provinces: announcements of disaster areas in violation of Finance Ministry’s regulations; levels of disaster and flooding not reaching minimum requirements for relief funds; and no, or inadequate, construction or restoration in affected areas after funds’ approval.

A total of Bt475 million in relief fund has been approved and paid to local authorities in 168 locations in the five provinces, who have allegedly fabricated damage reports and issued false recommendations for the funds, said acting PACC secretary-general Amphol Wongsiri.

The government’s central flood relief centre has instructed all provincial authorities to look into possible corruption involving the Bt5,000 government payments to qualified flood victims, following widespread reports that a large number of recipients’ names had been made up.

Individual payments of Bt5,000 have been granted to 632,000 people in 38 provinces, including 30,000 out of a total of 57,000 based in hard-hit Nakhon Ratchasima alone. The centre said rice seeds and compensation would be given to farmers owning a total of 400,000 flood-damaged rice paddies.

In Songkhla, around 60 per cent of homes damaged or destroyed by flooding have been repaired or rebuilt. A fund-raising campaign is underway to encourage donations from the general public.

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