Corruption for Breakfast

Corruption and bribery was the main topic of conversation when the members and business contacts of the Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce, Thai-Swedish Chamber of Commerce, Thai-Finnish Chamber of Commerce and Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce met at the hotel Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit on 27 March 2012.

After enjoying a continental buffet-style breakfast in one of the conference rooms, some 44 members and guests settled down to listen to the seminar entitled “Corruption – Legal Aspects and How to Deal with Practical Problems”.

The seminar was led by the Danish Commercial Counsellor, Mr. Bo Bjerregaard Rasmussen, who began by explaining that; “The Nordic countries have always been known for being at the top of the corruption league – that is, having very low corruption.”

However, many companies that operate in South East Asia are faced with the problem of corruption. As the counsellor highlighted; “Corruption is a very urgent problem in this part of the world.”

The counsellor then turned over the seminar to Detective Superintendent Morgens Sørensen from the Nordic Police and Customs Co-operation. Detective Superintendent Sørensen began by explaining that the Nordic Police and Customs Co-operation was established in Thailand approximately thirty years ago. He added that; “Our job is to assist in investigations in international crime, particularly related to the Nordic countries.”

Detective Superintendent Sørensen proceeded to outline the various roles of the organisations that the Nordic Police and Customs Co-operation work with, including the Attorney General’s Office, the Royal Thai Police, Royal Thai Customs, Interpol, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), and the Office of Public Sector – Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).

The responsibilities of the NACC include the removal of political office holders, filing cases against state officials, checking whether state officials have become unusually wealthy as well as checking the existence and the accuracy of the income and assets of state officials. The PACC focus their attentions and investigations on lower ranking government officials.

Corruption and Bribery
“Living in Thailand and not being exposed to various kinds of corruption is, I think, very difficult,” Detective Superintendent Sørensen commented.

“It can be difficult to distinguish between corruption and bribery. Corruption is the abuse of power for personal gain. Bribery is paying a police officer or other type of official a certain amount of money to look the other way when conducting business.”

Detective Superintendent Sørensen then outlined some of the measures that have been put in place to eradicate corruption and bribery in Thailand, briefly touching upon certain cases.

The seminar was then turned over to Mr. Bo B. Rasmussen from the Royal Danish Embassy, who began by commenting; “Corruption is damaging to our country’s development. It is also damaging to the image of individual companies.”

He suggested that one of the best ways for companies to avoid being drawn into corruption was to clearly publish their policies both internally and externally. Publishing these company policies internally would ensure that all employees would have a clear understanding of the practices that are deemed acceptable. Externally publishing the policies would announce to the world that the company was not interested in dealing with corruption and would report any such advances.

Mr Rasmussen explained that once a company embraces corruption, even on a small scale, the ramifications may be eternal; “Once you have paid a bribe you have done something illegal, and given someone leverage on you. If you are known to be corrupt, you no longer have the option of presenting a clean image.”

As everyone in the business world knows, company image is extremely important these days. Consumers want to make sure that they purchase products and do business with companies that are morally and socially responsible.

Mr Rasmussen then went on to say that it is the responsibility of individuals to act if they become aware that their associates are involved in corruption or bribery; “It is no longer acceptable to simply say that your agent was taking a bribe. Now you are responsible if you do not inform on your agent and follow the correct procedures. You can still be arrested for acts of corruption or bribery committed by your agent.”

So, how can acts of corruption or bribery be identified? According to Bo B. Rasmussen; “In most cases, it’s a matter of common sense. Most people are not usually in doubt if they are getting into areas that are questionable. However, there are also grey areas.”

Therefore, it is down to the discretion and integrity of the individual to ensure that they stay away from corruption and bribery. Incidences of corruption and bribery are famously profuse in Thailand and run through all levels of authority. However, Mr Rasmussen feels that this situation is slowly changing.

“Countries don’t change from corrupt to incorrupt overnight,” he explained. “However, Thailand is a country that is becoming less corrupt.”

The seminar was brought to a close by the Danish Commercial Counsellor, who commented that; “Corruption is probably the biggest problem we are facing in the world. If we had no corruption, we would have utopia.” There is hope for people who dream of creating utopia in Thailand. The Danish Commercial Counsellor went on to say that; “We have to tackle corruption from the top. Can it be done? Certainly.”

The seminar was followed by a brief question and answer session, where the participants had the chance to pose questions to Detective Superintendent Morgens Sørensen and Bo B. Rasmussen.

People who are interested in learning more about corruption and bribery and what to do if they think they may be affected can use the following resources:

UN Convention on Corruption:


UN Global Compact:
http://www.unglobalcompact.org/aboutthegc/thetenprinciples/anti-corruption.html

Anti-Corruption Portal:
http://www.business-anti-corruption.com/

OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions:


OECD:
http://www.oecd.org/topic/0,3699,en_2649_37447_1_1_1_1_37447,00.html

Global Advice:
http://www.globaladvicenet.com/

Transparency International:
http://www.transparency.org/

Doing Business:
http://www.doingbusiness.org/

People who wish to discuss a suspected case of corruption or bribery can contact either Morgens Sørensen or Lennart Östberg at the Nordic Liaison Office Bangkok, Park Ventures 1001A, Floor 10, 57 Wireless Road, Patumwan, Bangkok, email: nlobangkok@nordlo.in.th

Related Posts

Leave a Reply