Open letter on corruption- Ajarn Joel Gershon

October 30, 2010

An Open Letter to

XIVth International Anti-Corruption Conference

Joel Gershon

October 11, 2010

To the upcoming event organizers:

I am a journalist based in Bangkok and a journalism professor at two of the top universities in the country – Chulalongkorn and Thammasat Universities.

I’m wondering whether there will be any session on the rampant corruption that exists on every level in the host country. I ask because it is ironic beyond belief that the prime minister is actually speaking at this event considering how controversial his government is and because of the ever-increasing censorship that has enveloped the press since he has taken office (and I mean, truly “taken” office).

I have lived here for more than five years and while there is a lot to love about Thailand, I can confirm through a variety of first- and second-hand experiences that this place is incredibly corrupt and that websites that have tried to expose this have been shut down by this government. Take, for example, the country’s most prominent and thorough anti-censorship website – Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) It cannot be viewed in this country.

In particular, the propaganda pushed by the government during the Red Shirts rallies were shocking – specifically, in one instance, footage taken by Al Jazeera was manipulated by the government where it was made to appear that the protestors were shooting at the military, resulting in the death of soldiers, when in reality, it was due to friendly fire (this was brought to my attention by the Al  Jazeera producer who was responsible for the footage and who is a Thai national). Another shocking incident was when the government shut down the Red TV station during the protests.

I assure you that I am not a Red sympathizer. I know it comes across like I am, and I have shot video and taken photos at their rallies, but in reality, I believe the previous Red leaders such as Thaksin Shinawatra and Samak Sunderavej were corrupt as well, and I believe that the protestors have been manipulated by money as many of them have been paid to attend the protests.

I see that Panthep Klanarongran the president of the Thai National Anti-Corruption Commission soon after the prime minister speaks. Will he address these issues so soon after the PM speaks? It would be great, but I imagine that he will “kreng jai” (meaning: be polite) and avoid anything that might create such a tense atmosphere. I would be very happy to learn otherwise, however somebody should address this at the conference in the name of full transparency.

I would be happy to pay to see a session that truly addresses this issue, but otherwise I could not in good conscience pay to attend a anti-corruption conference for which I naturally assume some powerful individuals are receiving “tea money” for. Speaking of which, in the spirit of anti-corruption, are your books for this event fully transparent? I’m curious to hear, in particular, about who will be providing security as well as PR and how much they’ll be getting paid.


Joel Gershon

[FACT comments: As you can see from these notable sponsors, one might think “transparency” or “corruption” is simply not on the agenda.

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