Corruption: 3,600 rai of Phuket land under investigation
PHUKET: Title deeds for more than 12,000 rai of land around Thailand are under investigation by the Office of the National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC) because of suspicions they were obtained through corruption.
Tuesday 10 July 2012, 07:02PM
Of this number, 3,600 rai – 30 per cent – is on Phuket alone, the rest being mostly in other tourist destinations such as Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Koh Chang.
NACC Commissioner Wicha Mahakhun revealed the numbers today (July 10) at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) capacity-building workshop aimed at combating corruption, money laundering and illicit trade.
At the workshop, held at the JW Marriott in Mai Khao, he said the the total estimated cost of damage done to the country’s economy by land-related corruption has reached B420 million, while the cost of the damage of all types of corruption in Thailand is at least B1 billion.
He said the road to corruption sometimes started from local people who sold their land to get money even when this was forbidden by the papers for the land.
Many cases relating to land have been reported to the NACC, including the case of the land next to the Freedom Beach and land where the Kathu Tin Mine was located.
“About 40 per cent of corruption cases in Thailand have involved local authorities,” Mr Wicha added, “with less than half of the B200 billion in public funds actually benefiting people around the country.”
While corruption related to land has been heating up in recent years, he added, other illegal activities such as human trafficking and drugs, and the corruption involved, are still major concerns.
Mr Wicha said he believed that the root of corruption was a prevalent attitude of, “It’s not a problem so long as I benefit.”
For example, he said, corruption in Phuket is reflected in illegal ownership of land, which is then transformed into property projects, resorts or hotels with a handful of people reaping the benefit from what should be public land.
“The opening of Thailand, for example for tourism, has provided hiding places for criminals,” said Mr Wicha. “Places such as Phuket, Pattaya and Samui are like paradise for criminals.”
A major concern is 2015, when the Asean Economic Community will come into being, allowing an influx of people from Asean into Thailand. Laws and regulations must be reviewed before then to create an efficient security system to prevent corruption and money laundering, he said.
The NACC is now drawing up plans to develop anti-corruption practices, in collaboration with relevant international organisations.
On a worldwide scale, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that in 2009 the global damage done by corruption was US$1.6 trillion (B48 trillion), equivalent to 2.7 per cent of global GDP.
Less than one per cent of the global proceeds of crime are seized.