But not only did Panida Yotpanya expose the irregularities, she was, as an intern in the government agency, asked, or should we say told, albeit unknown to her at the time, to be part of the act.
According to Ms Panida, who is a fourth-year community development major, the internship program at the Khon Kaen Protection for the Destitute – an agency that helps the underprivileged and HIV patients under the supervision of the ministry – was supposed to be simple. Based on stories from her seniors at Maha Sarakham University, she was to go on field trips with the centre’s staff to meet people in need, gather information and write up a report.
What her job actually entailed was copying information from photos of ID cards from dozens of villagers onto official forms and she, along with three other interns, were asked to sign those documents on their behalf. What Ms Panida discovered, and later revealed to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), was that what she was asked to do was in fact forgery and illegal.
“And if these papers are used in illegal activity, it’s us who would end up in jail because we signed the papers,” Ms Panida told the media.
After bringing the matter to the attention of their parents and the department instructors, the centre’s staff were asked about what happened, they denied anything illegal was going on at the centre and believed it was a misunderstanding. To that, Ms Panida and the others were told to beg forgiveness and were forced to kneel and apologise.
Ms Panida now asks herself what she did wrong. She brought the issue to the instructors hoping it would be dealt with. It turned out it was a case of misunderstanding. It was after this forced apology that Ms Panida and her parents took the matter to the NCPO and the army’s complaint centres.
To think that the younger generation are not only exposed to graft while on internships within government agencies, but also told to be part of it, beggars belief. And this one case just goes to show that fighting graft in government agencies really is an impossible mission.