Giles Ji Ungpakorn
Now that the scandal of Rolls-Royce bribery of politicians and state official in Thailand has been exposed, we can draw some initial conclusions.
In the case of bribes to “encourage” Thai Airways to buy Rolls-Royce T80 engines for its fleet, bribes were paid a total of three times. Between 1991 and 1992, $18.8 million were paid. Between 1992 and 1997 another $10.38 million was given and between 2004 and 2005 a further $ 7.2 million was handed out.
A further Rolls-Royce bribery scandal involves payments amounting to $11 million to “persuade” PTT Public Company Limited, the Thai state-owned SET-listed “oil and gas company”, to award a total of 6 contracts to Rolls-Royce Energy Systems, Inc. (RRESI). These bribes were paid at various times between 2000 and 2012.
We do not know yet which individuals pocketed the bribes, and given the state of the police and the justice system we may never know. But what we can point to are the top state officials who should be held responsible for allowing this corruption to happen or for not instituting proper checks on large commercial transactions.
The Prime Ministers during the periods when all these bribes were paid were the following:
(1) Anand Panyarachun, technocrat and so-called “Mr Clean”, who was appointed as an unelected Prime Minister by the military junta, after the coup d’état in 1991. The power behind this Prime Minister was Dictator Suchinda Kaprayoon.
(2) Chuan Leekpai from the Democrat Party.
(3) Banharn Silapa-archa from the Chart Thai Party.
(4) Chawalit Yongjaiyut from the New Aspirations Party.
(5) Taksin Shinawat from Thai Rak Thai Party.
(6) Surayut Julanon, military dictator following the 2006 coup d’état.
(7) Unelected Abhisit Vejjajiva, Democrat Party leader, appointed by the military under Prayut Chan-ocha and Anupong Paochinda.
(8) Yingluk Shinawat from the Pua Thai Party.
Some of the top officials at Thai Airways were military men and civilians associated with the 1991 coup and Thanong Bidaya, a Thai Rak Thai politician.
What can we conclude from all this?
Firstly, that rampant corruption has taken place and is still taking place under various military juntas who came to power in coup d’états, claiming to overthrow corrupt civilian governments. Given the long history of military corruption in Thailand under Pibun, Sarit and Tanom, this is hardly surprising. Even under elected civilian governments top generals sit on the executive boards of state companies.
Secondly, corruption also took place under elected and non-elected civilian governments of all the main political parties, including Thai Rak Thai, the Democrats and supposedly technocrat-led governments.
Thirdly, the entire Thai ruling class is steeped in corruption of both an illegal and legal nature. “Legal” corruption is taking place today because military generals have come to power and then appointed themselves and their friends and relatives to high paying positions.
Fourthly, corruption is an integral part of the world capitalist system, with Western multinationals paying bribes on a regular basis to avoid so-called free market competition. Corruption is not just a Thai problem, it is also endemic in the USA, UK and other European countries. We can see this in the “conflicts of interest” in the Trump administration and involving British cabinet ministers and payments to members of their families and dishonest claims for expenses by French and British politicians.
The difference between Thailand and many Western countries is that social movements, trade unions, opposition political parties and the press have more freedom and power to expose such corruption. The crucial role of mass movements can be seen only this past week in Romania, where a mass movement forced the government to withdraw a law which would have white-washed corrupt officials.
In Thailand, the problem of corruption is closely linked with the lack of freedom of expression and the weakness of independent mass movements from below, including the trade unions.