BANGKOK — Next time you see soldiers taking a bribe, you better tell some soldiers about it.
In a renewed effort to get rid of corruption and malfeasance, the junta announced a plan to open complaint centers throughout the country, so members of the public can notify them if they see officials abusing their power.
“The centers will be set up in every province. The soldiers would take your complaints,” junta spokesman Winthai Suvaree said by phone. “There would also be a hotline for the central unit, and anyone who has documents or CDs as evidence, they will be able to send them via mail.”
Asked whether the new role of the military will overlap with that of other watchdog agencies, such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission, or NACC, the spokesman said the centers would speed the handling of complaints from citizens and make sure they get attention from relevant officials.
“Sometimes people air their complaints on social media, but they don’t reach important agencies such as the NACC,” Winthai said. “If you complain on social media, it may not go anywhere. But if you send it to us, the state will accept it, and if it has a basis, we will send it to state agencies to proceed.”
But the military itself is often accused of corruption and silencing whistleblowers. Just last month, an activist was arrested a day before he was to file a petition asking the military government to disclose details of a controversial high-speed railway deal. He submitted it several days after he was released from custody.
A dozen activists are also on trial under the military tribunal for their transparency campaign over a multi-billion baht monument complex they believed fraught with financial irregularities.
So what if someone saw soldiers in their area misbehaving? Can they trust the military to impartially investigate the complaints? Winchai said they can; arguing that the public can simply notify other units that are unrelated to the wrongdoers.
“If they send evidence to the central agency, we will take action,” Winthai said. “If you see anyone engaging in malfeasance, you don’t have to talk to that person. You can tell other people.”