Competitiveness: 1) Can Bangkok’s next Governor take Bangkok off the corruption buffet table?


By Ranger, Thai Intel’s political journalist

Corruption have long plagued Bangkok’s annual budget of about US$ 2 Billion.  About  1/6 of that US$2 Billion goes to investments and the rest is for normal operating expense. Corruption eats into both of these areas.

An election is taking place, for the next Governor of Bangkok. The main candidates are Sukhumphan of the Democrat Party and Pongsaphat of the Pheu Thai Party. Bangkok is the stronghold of the Elite Establishment and its proxy Democrat Party, and therefore Sukhumphan is favored to win, but the poll gives Pongsaphat a small lead.



On voters mind is corruption:

Needless to say, from looking at the budget figure of US$2 billion, Bangkok housing some 10 million people and suffering a host of problems like traffic, Bangkok is starving for money to run the city on a day to day and also investment for the future.

But corruption, at all level of the management of the Bangkok, has been going on for years even decades, where Bangkok had been governed mostly, under the Elite Establishment proxy, being the Democrat Party.

The Elite Establishment, with Bangkok as its strong hold, would point to Thaksin, as being greatly corrupt, as a major rationale for it to govern Bangkok. But the fact that most Bangkokians, that supprt the Elte establishment ignore is that Transparency International numbers sees Thaksin and Yingluck’s governments as being less corrupt than Abhisit‘s government. And indeed a poll of the Thais, said corruption under Abhisit, was the worse in Thailand’s history.

Yet the image with most voters in Bangkok, being part of  the elite and middle-class, is that there is little corruption in Bangkok from the Democrat Party governing of Bangkok.



Infected with Corruption:

Against the Democrat Party’s clean image, are some well known corruption. Under the Democrat Party a purchase of fleet of fire and rescue vehicle, in the 100s, ordered by Bangkok was found to have been infected with massive corruption, causing damage to Bangkok in the billions of baht. The Democrat Party governor then, Apirak, was found by the court, to have been involved in the corruption.

And corruption is everywhere at every level, not just with special purchase. Corruption have become “Ingrained.”

For example, the street hawk gets permission to sell on the sidewalk, from payment to low level city officials. And the current building boom in Bangkok is seeing building license, granted, often against regulations, also to corrupt city officials. One result of that building related corruption is that court cases against buildings have been piling up. Even the “Advertisement Display Tax” is infected with corruption.



“Policy Corruption” and “Bad Management” 

But it is not just corruption that hurt Bangkok.

For example, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok, all have have had a “Smart City” goal for about 20 years now. For Bangkok, the smart city concept, started with the Democrat Party’s smart taxi project. That smart taxi project, failed utterly, from a combination of policy corruption and bad management, where billions of baht was wasted.

Apart from the smart taxi, Bangkok also had plans to be internet friendly city, and thus it went about putting up Free WiFi Points. Today, that system, of Free Wifi, does not work. There are many other examples of policy corruption and management failures. More recently, the fut sol stadium of Bangkok, was also rocked with bad management, and the stadium was not complete on time for the World level event.



Deep Rooted Problem:

Yet corruption is a deep rooted problem in Thailand, where arguably, everyone in power in Thailand, is corrupt, one way or another. Even in polls after polls of the Thais, the Thais say corruption is OK, if those that corrupt did something positive for country.

To blame the Elite Establishment’s Sukhumphan for corruption under his management of the city, or not the trust that Pongsaphat can be non corrupt is “Pointless.” The question, many mature voters are asking, before tomorrow’s election, is, quote: “Can Pongsaphat or Sukhumphan take Bangkok off the Corruption Buffet Table?”

A major problem of the “Great Thailand Political Divide” is that politicians rarely touch on the “Real Issues” that matters to the voters anymore.

Take Abhisit’s Democrat Party in running the Sukhumphan election. The Sukhumphan campaign started off with Sukhumphan getting angry and let out some raw emotions. The problem is, those letting out of raw emotions took place on a stage in front of a large crowd, and it took the form of some “Foul Campaign Language.” And that became a big campaign issue! Then, of course, Abhisit and the Democrat Party is the master of “Dirty Negative Campaign” and they have been putting up posters and video projections, of the Thai political crisis a few years back. And so Abhisit have been showing lots of pictures and video of Bangkok riots with burning, for example, pointing the blame to the Red Shirts.

The “Politicization” of the election away from “Issues” also includes Abhisit, who said on every major campaign stop, quote: “Will you let Bangkok be occupy by the Red Shirts? Or will you help Bangkok be the capital of Thailand?” Then it is also telling voters for vote for Sukhumphan, to prevent Thaksin from returning to Thailand and to help reduce Thaksin’s power.



Skirting the “Corruption” Issue:

On the few last days before the people of Bangkok is to vote on who will become the next Governor, Abhisit’s Democrat Party, after months of “Highly Negative Campaign” and “Skirting Issues” suddenly, went putting up “Some” posters, saying that Sukhumphan, quote: “Will not be corrupt.” That is the extent of how important Abhisit sees corruption.

Yingluck’s candidate Pongsaphat, have been campaigning with 100% non negative campaign, avoiding attacks on Sukhumphan. Pongsaphat, while avoiding negative campaign, also went positive. In every major campaign stop, he went giving solutions, to address a host of problems Bangkok is facing, that he promises to solve, if become Governor.

But like the Abhisit Democrat Party campaign, that “Politicized Away” serious issue like corruption, Pongsaphat just simply, ran away from the corruption issue. Why? Corruption is a weak point for Phau Thai Party with Bangkok voters.



In Thailand, and especially, in the Elite Establishment control Bangkok, when it comes to the corruption issue, it had been, quote “Written in Stone” that anyone on Thaksin side is corrupt and anyone on the Elite Establishment side, like Sukhumphan, is not corrupt.

With that obvious “Childish Characterization,” of the issue, “Corruption” will never gets a realistic treatment. Without realistic treatment, Bangkok will never get off the “Corruption Buffet Table.”

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