Sunday, August 16, 2009

What about the governor?

The Nation had an editorial in Friday's paper to follow up its article on the Bangkok International Film Festival bribery scandal and restate the notion that "things are definitely heating up for Juthamas Siriwan", the former Tourism Authority of Thailand governor.

She is named by the U.S. Justice Department as the recipient of US$1.8 million in bribes the U.S. authorities say Hollywood producer Gerald Green and his wife Patricia paid so they could obtain contracts to run the film festival and other TAT schemes. The Greens are on trial in Los Angeles for violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

But I am not so sure anything is really happening with the Juthamas case. It was actually in March 2008 that Thailand's Department of Special Investigation concluded the allegations were "well founded" and forwarded the case to the National Counter Corruption Commission. And there it sits. Now, Thailand has not had a stable government for the past year, so it's understandable things like this would take some time. The Nation couches it, saying the NCCC "is expected to make a decision soon". But what of the outcome?

If Jutamas is found guilty and punished, it will be among Thailand's rare successful prosecutions of senior officials or former senior officials. In fact, cases have scarcely reached the prosecution stage if they involve high-ranking personnel in this country. If they do, it takes so long to wrap up that future or potential offenders are more likely to be encouraged than dispirited.

Bangkok Pundit had a followup to the earlier posts on the Greens' trial, and the Thai Visa thread about the scandal has new activity. It makes for lively reading here and there if you have the time to wade through it.

Update: The trial actually starts on Tuesday, August 18, in Los Angeles.

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