According to the Bangkok Post Thai officials convicted in corruption cases involving more than one billion baht could face the death penalty. Previous Thai legislation provided for the death penalty for officials convicted of bribery, but the Bangkok Post reports that no official has ever been executed. There is a serious talk now of drastically increasing the penalties for corruption.
Thailand does have an acute corruption problem. Thailand ranks 38 on Transparency International Corruptions Perception Index (CPI). Compliance officers and, informally, U.S. authorities have recommended enhanced compliance and vigilance when operating in countries that score below on 50 the CPI. Thailand has consistently ranked below this threshold.
The government has announced measures to substantially reduce corruption in Thailand so that it scores above this threshold and develops a reputation for being relatively corruption free. But some foreign newspapers, such as The Independent, have suggested that this part of a political move to “consolidate power”; Reuters has quoted sources as saying this is a means of controlling political opponents (its words).
Nonetheless, numerous studies have shown that corruption is a major obstacle to doing business in Thailand. It is a serious problem and cannot be dismissed as trivial. The question is how best to tackle this problem?
On OECD study may offer some guidance. The OECD study concluded that SMEs suffer more from corruption in Thailand than larger businesses because corruption distorts the play of competitive sources. Larger businesses can use regulation to stymie competition from smaller companies.
A paper from the International Monetary Fund states that: “in many countries and especially in developing countries the role of the state is often carried through the use of many rules or regulations.. [And this means officials] can use their public power to extract bribes from those who need public authorizations and approvals.” This problem is a common among countries that suffer from corruption; it is not unique to Thailand.
In response to this problem, many have advocated the use of a so-called regulatory guillotine, which would operate as follows:
The guillotine is an orderly, systematic, transparent, rapid and low-cost means of county and then rapidly reviewing a large number of regulations against clear scientific criteria for good regulation, and eliminating those that are no longer needed. It results in economically-significant regulatory cost reductions for businesses, either on a government-wide scale or targeted at specific problem areas such as licenses or sectors.
This is recognized as a transparent political neutral way of attacking corruption, and it has proven to be effective.