Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption. Government implementation of the law increased under the NCPO, although officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were reports of government corruption during the year.
Corruption: Corruption remained widespread among police. There were numerous incidents of police charged with abduction, sexual harassment, theft, and malfeasance, plus reports police tortured, beat, and otherwise abused detainees and prisoners, generally with impunity. Authorities arrested police officers and convicted them of corruption, drug trafficking, and smuggling; police reportedly also committed intellectual property rights violations.
In February the NACC cleared the Royal Thai Army on charges of corruption related to the construction of Rajbhakti Park.
In February 2015 the attorney general filed criminal charges against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra related to alleged malfeasance in her handling of the government’s rice-pledging program. The trial began in May 2015 and continued as of October. Several other former Yingluck government officials also faced criminal charges for their roles in the program.
In addition to criminal charges, numerous former officials also faced civil actions related to the rice-pledging program. In September the Ministry of Commerce issued an order to seize assets totaling 20 billion baht ($560 million) from six former officials found civilly liable for government losses resulting from alleged fake government-to-government rice deals that formed a part of that program. In October the Finance Ministry issued a bill to Yingluck Shinawatra for 35.7 billion baht ($1 billion).
At year’s end the government continued to enforce the 2009 arrest warrant against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The Supreme Court of Justice for Persons Holding Political Positions’ case against him regarding a 2006 government bank loan to Burma remained suspended. He continued to reside outside the country. The NACC and Office of the Auditor General continued to investigate allegations of corruption committed by members of the Thaksin government from 2001 to 2006, and their findings triggered several cases at the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court of Justice for Persons Holding Political Positions.
Financial Disclosure: Financial disclosure laws and regulations require elected and appointed public officials to disclose assets and income according to standardized forms. The law penalizes officials who fail to submit declarations, submit inaccurate declarations, or conceal assets. Penalties include a five-year political activity ban, asset seizure, and discharge from position, as well as a maximum imprisonment of six months, a maximum fine of 10,000 baht ($280), or both.
The NACC financial disclosure rules do not apply to NCPO members. Likewise authorities also exempted members of the NCPO-appointed 200-member National Reform Steering Assembly.
Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to government information, and the government effectively implemented the law. The law provides some exceptions for nondisclosure, including to prevent damage to the monarchy, national security threats, and impediments to effective law enforcement. Regulations require a government agency to respond to a petition within 15 days; however, the regulations do not require it to submit a decision within a certain time. There is no processing fee. If a government agency ignores the petition for disclosure or the requester appeals a request denial, a judge with the Office of the Official Information Commission (OOIC) must decide the case within 60 days. If the OOIC orders the disclosure, the agency must disclose the information within seven days. The law subjects a noncompliant agency head to civil disciplinary actions or criminal penalties. The OOIC received approximately 300 appeals from January to September, which was consistent with 2015 figures. Of the approximately 300 cases received, 230 were completed as of September. The OOIC organized public campaigns and training as well as e-learning programs for officials responsible for reviewing requests.