We've just added a new feature to the site titled "Corruption in Thailand". As you've probably heard or read, Thailand has had a lot of bad press of late and this story briefly discusses the issues. How big are the risks really?
You can read the full story here: http://www.travelfish.org/feature/144
I look forward to hearing some tales of woe ... or not perhaps!
And don't forget if the police robbed you, use the story to enter our competition to win a Pacsafe bag!
I live here and I have to say none of my friends nor I have EVER had to pay a bribe or even been hassled. I'm not saying there's no corruption, but things here are changing.
#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Nice article somtam. Good food for thought and lots of passionate comments from readers too.
My experience has been similar to MADMAC's. I've never been asked to pay a bribe in Thailand either, and I'm pretty sure that your average tourist, traveller, and even expat won't have to worry too much about this aspect of the local culture.
Where I have seen it, however, is with my Thai friends and associates. One particularly viscious example was when a friend's daughter was killed in a motor vehicle accident. She was asked to pay a bribe of 5,000 baht to get the death certificate necessary to get an insurance payout.
One time in Phnom Penh, I was asked to pay a $5 "fine" for making an illegal left turn. It was my fault I guess, since I did make the turn, and the fact that the motorcycle cop had parked directly in front of the no left turn sign should have had nothing to do with it. ;-) In that case, I paid an on-the-spot fine of $1, which, according to my expat friends, was still double the going rate. Cheers.
I've never had any problem either although I haven't had a lot to do with the police.The one time I did get pulled up by a cop was in Maesiarang for going down a one way street the wrong way.No on the spot fine or bribe,just a warning.Perhaps it was because I had the Thai wife behind me.As a side note the wife's brother-in -law used to be the head policeman[retired now] at a station outside of Singburi and she swears he was completely honest.
color=red]Corruption? what is it?
I've always held a view that corruption was a (mal)practice that I felt was wrong according to my perceived view of right-ness/correctness.
I looked up Wikipedia, and the term is segregated into 5 streams. What we, here. are referring to is labelled 'political corruption'. Wikipedia has this to say on the term:
"Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by private persons or corporations not directly involved with the government. An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption only if the act is directly related to their official duties.
All forms of government are susceptible to political corruption. Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement. While corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and trafficking, it is not restricted to these organized crime activities. In some nations, corruption is so common that it has gained normative status. The end point of political corruption is a kleptocracy, literally "rule by thieves".
The activities that constitute illegal corruption differ depending on the country or jurisdiction. Certain political funding practices that are legal in one place may be illegal in another. In some countries, government officials have broad or poorly defined powers, and the line between what is legal and illegal can be difficult to draw.
Bribery around the world is estimated at about $1 trillion (£494bn), and the burden of corruption falls disproportionately on the bottom billion people living in extreme poverty.
Elsewhere, wikipedia refers to a world map of corruption, colour coding nations according to this attribute.
I thought we were discussing corruption in Thailand? I've deleted a bunch of comments out of the above. Let's get it back on track.
what-the-****....Somtam, here you flabbergast me!!!!
One can't divorce the issue of corruption in Thailand away from what is occurring on the world stage.
The simple fact is that Thai officials engage in corruption because BECAUSE THEIR LEADERSHIP demonstrate tolerance about corruption. And, the leadership LEARN about tolerance for corruption elsewhere.
The map I referred to (above) shows that western nations (and one in particular) are not squeaky clean when it comes to perceptions about corruption.
Talking about Thai corruption will not diminish the fact, linking it to the world stage has IMHO more chance.
Just an update on the corruption issue, King Power, the Duty Free mob at Bangkok's international airport have released a video which they claim shows the British couple did nick a wallet -- and it does... while this certainly doesn't excuse the conduct of the Thai police (who promptly carted them off and extorted them), it does make the whole thing a bit more interesting.
You can see the video here:
Two points on your last post:
1. In Thailand you can buy your way out of something. Even in the horrible, corruption ridden US filled with F@# wits this is MUCH more difficult and MUCH less common. Of course, on the plus side, if you're a rich expat you can buy your way out of trouble (just like a slimey Pedophile out here has done).
2. Secondly, within the confines of how this applies to the tourist in Thailand, the nature of corruption elsewhere is wholly irrelevent.
#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
i've got a copy of a book called Corruption and Democracy in Thailand. it came out in 1994 and caused quite a stir at the time. somtam, do you remember this book? most folks just called it "Corruption."
anyway, one of the chapters is about public attitudes towards corruption. there is an example given where the researchers asked a broad cross-section of the population what they thought about a traffic offender offering to pay a "fine" directly to the police office in order to avoid a trip to the police station and possibly a larger fine. it this scenario, the police office did not ask for the money, but accepted it.
what was fascinating is that from this survey, 61% of the responders considered this bribery (sin bon), 37% considered it improper behavior, 31% thought is was dishonesty in duty, but only 16% labeled it corruption and 5% specifically said it was not corruption. apparently this was because the amount of money involved was small, the offender initiated the transaction, and the police officer did not actively solicit the money. in other words, the offender was purchasing convenience.
I fail to see how your 'King Power' matter relates directly to corruption. Clearly, the ppl were in the wrong. While the 'sentence' they received wasn't merely an outcome of the judicial system, it can be construed as 'justice'.
When arrested for a crime here in Australia, it hasn't been unknown for the cops to beat the s**t out of the crim. Clearly, those involved in the 'honesty' business have ways of meting out punishment.
The issue of corruption is not about taking the law into your own hands (though that can come into play), rather, it's about officials using honest situations to advantage themselves. Or, as noted above, corruption occurs when the illegal act is directly related to the person's official duties.
- - -
On your 1st point, while the corrupt practice may be less endemic in the US, that it occurs at all merely points to a discussion on relativity.
I suggest the world map (above) coloured the nations according to the relative perception of embededness of corruption.
On your second point, I totally disagree. People power is an important persuasive attribute. If a traveller arrives in Thailand and says 'same same, home then corruption is condoned at the everyday level of discourse. However, if the traveller speaks out, they are being comparative towards the subject and the Thai person encountering the conversation learns that corruption is not (or at least is less) tolerated in other places. To my mind, evil begets evil, but good requires effort.
Bruce - King Power vid relates as it relates to the case mentioned in the opening par of the corruption story (tourists being extorted at the airport).
exacto - paying off the cops for "small issues" is the classic example where people are really just buying the convenience. Day to day, people don't moan about incessently -- some even view it as a not totally unreasonable system in lieu of paying real tax -- after all paying off a cop on the spot for running a red light/speeding etc certainly is a user pays system! Compare that to say in Oz, where I got fined A$180 for parking in a handicapped spot! I still moan about that! LOL
Problem arises when the petty corruption/tea money reinvents itself as large scale graft and before you know it tourists are being carted off for extortion etc.
Side note, on a busy street corner near where I live there is a police box with a couple of cops in it. They busy themselves day in day out pinching motorbike drivers for riding without a helmet (it's the law here in Indonesia that you wear a helmet). I'm sure in every case the locals pay a "fee" and they're done with it. Every now and then though I see them with a tourist -- who, let it be said, regularly ride without helmets -- the vibe tends to be very different with the tourist angry and probably fuming about those dodgy Indo cops. But, all they need do is wear a helmet.
Is it really that difficult to obey the law when travelling in a different country? How many of these people would ride a motorbike in their home country without a helmet? Hell they probably don't even have a license!
So, not wearing a helmet when the law says you must and being apprehended for same is a form of corruption?
To me, corruption is like when the Laos immigration 'officers' impose an extra charge to process the paperwork (sometimes, but not always, called an 'after hours' charge any time of day) on western tourists crossing the border.
On the Laos/Vietnam border, even when departing, an 'extra' charge was imposed. In a bid to thwart, I asked for a receipt. They were so brazen that they gave me one!!!
Now, that's (low scale) corruption. Not wearing a helmet is foolish, and being busted for it is legit!
I take a libertarian view on helmuts and drugs. I believe it should be a choice. But it is the law, and we live in civil society. Get busted fot it, then pay the fine - don't whine. Here you are I agree (comically out here after dark helmets are not required - legally yes, defacto no, you won't be stopped or ticketed for not wearing one).
As for this:
"However, if the traveller speaks out, they are being comparative towards the subject and the Thai person encountering the conversation learns that corruption is not (or at least is less) tolerated in other places. To my mind, evil begets evil, but good requires effort."
I do not know a single human being who has had to pay a bribe to any official in the US. Not one. This is just not normal back home. Here it is routine (but not for expats living in the sticks who the cops here just don't want to deal with). So no westerner is going to say "same, same back home" unless he's an idiot or trying to pretend things in Thailand are "better" than back home to ingratiate himself with his new found "friends".
Also, if you are tourist and are being tapped for one hundred baht, just pay it and move on. How things run in Thailand is Thai buisiness, not ours. Make it your business at great risk. Cops here are easy to get along with really, but if you provoke them, they can really screw up your vacation. You don't want to go there.
I intervened with a local who was beating his daughter. That's because I thought she might be seriously hurt since he was kicking her when she was on the ground. When the police came they told me that was a stupid thing to do. That cost this guy serious face and I have made an enemy for life. But at least in that situation we were talking serious injury to a young girl which is completely different than not wanting to pay a one hundred baht bribe. You have to balance what's at stake and be a little practical.
The issue with corruption in the US is on a high political level - not low level crap (which happens, but isn't normal). It's contracts being given to Haliburton and so forth.
#15 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I've long felt that one of the hallmarks of an advanced society is that it embeds its corruption within/into its administrative system.
So, instead of the official merely putting his (rarely a her) hand out for cash, we have a group/s of administrative members colluding to give financial 'rewards' (eg. contracts) to another administrative entity with the financial payoff occurring offsite.
The Haliburton example isn't alone in the US, and every modern nation will have its plethora of examples.
In some respects, the ill feeling towards embedded corruption in an 'advanced' nation is a moral issue that the traveller from the 'advanced' nation still takes to a less 'advanced' nation as a principle for criticism of their 'simple' demonstration.
In my view pubclic service should be just that - public service. I honestly wish the US would pass a law that says if you are elected to the Congress or serve as a principal in the cabinet or the president you should be required to disinvest from all firms and put your capital into low interest Federal Banks. It should be a priveledge and SACRIFICE to serve, not an opportunity for self enrichment. And it should be sold that way. The people who would not serve as a result are people I don't want serving anyway.
On my last deployment I was disgusted by the Halliburton nonsense. They were charing the government (and it was paying - because of this kind corruption) obscene amounts for goods and services that the Army used to provide for itself. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are reviled not just because of the war in Iraq, but because they have left the perception (justified in my opinion) that they used their time in government as an opportunity for self enrichment at expense to the nation.
#17 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
The 'model' you aspire to is the idealised Westminster administrative system of the UK (but watch the show Yes, Minister and you'll see the folly of the ideal.
The Washington 'model' is that to get the arse licking senior bureaucrats that politicians want, one hires and fires political-party sycophants upon election.
Sadly, we in Australia have the Washminster system - we've taken the worst examples of both.