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Former mayor Pian Keesin knows all about official corruption on Phuket

Official Corruption Likely to be Exposed

Sunday, August 31, 2014
PHUKET: The huge Pandora's Box that holds the secrets of corruption on Phuket will be thrown open if former Patong mayor Pian Keesin and his son, businessman Prab Keesin, are ever brought to trial.

It will be a day of reckoning, a moment of great significance.

Phuketwan has interviewed both the Keesins at different times over the past seven years. Both of them know all the rumors and the gossip that has swirled through Patong about them, and from time to time been reported publicly.

On one occasion when Khun Pian was still mayor he was, it could reasonably be said, probably as close as anyone has come to being master of the island.

A Phuketwan reporter asked him a simple question: ''Who is the real mafia?''

Mayor Pian responded: ''The government officers and the political people. They need their cash injections, like Vitamin C.''

Most of the conversation after that was off the record, but it was not a conversation likely to be forgotten.

Phuketwan's reporters also attended a meeting at Pisona Group HQ shortly after Prab Keesin took charge of a large number of tuk-tuk drivers in Patong.

The tuk-tuk drivers were unruly. Violence was becoming a problem. The police could not control them.

And so, as often happens on Phuket, the people in authority, the people who should be able to fix the problem themselves, look for help. In this case, it was one of the Keesins.

We sat through the meeting at Pisona and got a sense that the organisational structure that was being introduced was sensible and there was nothing sinister. It was quite a mundane article.

Other meetings with the Keesins have not been so dull. In an interview with Phuketwan in December, 2010, here's what Prab Keesin had to say about corruption:

Corruption

WHEN WE talk about corruption in Patong, we have to talk about the whole world. Every country has it the same. Between business and the law, they work together. There is give and take. Patong is Patong. Police do not accept drugs. The thing is 50-50 between business and government. They do not allow bad things. I think it is bad, but sometimes we have to understand. The city is changing, but the law is very old. We need to have income for education, good health, and generally, corruption is not too bad. But we do not want more. We should change the law to avoid corruption. It's like a secret. Nobody knows who takes the money. Nobody knows the exact number. It has happened for 200 years already. The corruption in Patong is like a ghost: never seen, but we know it's there.

Oh yes, it's there all right. A couple of months before we interviewed Prab Keesin, there was a public meeting in Patong, called by his father, the mayor. The gathering took place on the field opposite Loma Park.

The word got around in advance and reached Phuketwan: more government people were putting the squeeze on Patong. They're getting too greedy.

Here's how it was reported:

THE FULL EXTENT of corruption on Phuket was revealed today when the head of Patong's entertainment association said that local venues were prepared to continue to make corrupt payments to 14 government offices and branches - but that was enough.

Requests from three additional government bodies to also gain under the table payments have the Phuket venues throwing up their hands saying, in effect: ''We can tolerate corruption, but anything beyond 14 organisations is just plain greedy.''

After the meeting, in response to a question from Phuketwan, Weerawit Kuresombut, President of the Entertainment Association in Patong, told us a few details. Corrupt payments, it appears, are always made in cash and usually recorded in account books as ''rent.''

The system is widely understood and tolerated on Phuket because in the end, it's the tourists who pay.

The identities of the 14 government bodies that form part of the entrenched system of corruption on Phuket have never been revealed. Dare we ask, what would happen if they were?

Last year, both the Keesins were on the ''mafia'' list provided by the Department of Special Investigation when DSI officers descended on Phuket to make a half-hearted attempt to tame the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers.

That attempt sputtered to a halt after both Khun Prab and his father made the same point: ''Who is corrupt, the person who pays the bribe or the person who takes it?''

What a question.

Soon after the 2010 interview with Khun Prab, Phuketwan travelled to Singapore for a revealing series of interviews with Ora-orn Poocharoen, the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at the well-regarded Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. We asked her how Phuket could learn from Singapore's solution to corruption and end the Thai holiday island's graft.

That series remains just as valid today. Now more than ever, with the military running Thailand, there's a real chance to bring about Phuketwan's frequently-expressed aim of making Phuket a corruption-free role model for the rest of the country.

As Ajarn Ora-orn told us: ''In Singapore they were not reluctant to put people, top ranking people, in jail one after the other - bom-bom-bom - to show the public that this is serious, the law is enforceable, and to me it's a strategy of catching the big fish. You don't waste time to catch people for petty corruption, you just go for the top. Go for the highest.

''Don't waste your time on small cases. That would be my recommendation for Phuket. Focus on that, keep on reporting that, keep on investigating that, keep on shining light on that. Force the law to be enforceable.''

Yet like a dark monsoon season cloud, the Keesin's question continues to hang over their own investigation, and all of Phuket.

''Who is corrupt, the person who pays the bribe or the person who takes it?''

Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is reported as saying that he knows the correct answer. He believes the honest answer is: ''Both.''

If that's the case, if the government seriously aims to beat corruption in all its forms, especially among the authorities, then it's time to throw open Pandora's Box.

Phuket and Thailand may be about to change in ways that were once so very hard to believe.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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So, Ed - Do you not agree that the answer to ''Who is corrupt, the person who pays the bribe or the person who takes it?'' is "Both"?

Posted by phonus balonus on August 31, 2014 13:17

Editor Comment:

We never respond to loaded questions. They almost always begin with ''So . . . '' We believe in the inevitability of change and the need for (good) laws to be enforced.

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I agree with the editor that the question cannot be answered directly. Perhaps the question of who is guilty of corruption is in the eye of the beholder? For example I have lived in SEA for over 32 years and one of the questions I hear from time to time from friends and relatives in this part of the world is; (moderated)

Posted by seht1912 on August 31, 2014 14:42

Editor Comment:

Sorry to have to terminate your comment. There is no connection between father and son PMs in Singapore. Indeed, the New York Times lost a libel suit for making just that false accusation. Fathers and sons often succeed as individuals.

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Bribe comes from an Old French word, meaning a morsel of bread given to a beggar.

Bribery breeds an educated criminal generation, a predator class who prey on their fellow citizens. It blocks the free flow of business. Bribery disrupts positive projects. Bribery diverts creative energies to worries about who, if not paid, will disrupt the progress of honest business and cause unnecessary and costly delays.

Bribery is devastating to a nation's economy. No one knows how much anything really costs; and since it is illegal money, black money, the recipients don't pay taxes on it. Two sets of books have to be kept. Honest companies are put out of business by dishonest competitors who give and accept bribes.

There are three kinds of bribery. The first is the most common withholding services one has been paid to perform until that additional, secret compensation is paid.

The second kind is a little more subtle. Favours???contracts, concessions, legal immunity, etc.???are given to those who pay a bribe in cash or kind. The briber offers money, saying, ???I am giving you this money, and this is what you can do for me,????? and if the party accepts it, that is what he must do. It???s a purchase of secret, unauthorized use of influence, position or authority.

The third form of bribery, even more subtle, is to provide a paid service and then exact an additional reward. This is, however, the most easily detected of all, because when asked for further service, it will be delayed or denied???that is, if the gift expected after the first service was performed was not given or was not large enough.

Posted by Arun Muruga on August 31, 2014 14:45

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well... there is 2 diifrent things here... the people that takes bribes do it coz they want it. the people who pays do it coz they have to.. yea they have to or get punnished in one way or another. they could refuse ofcoz but then the island would have no business whatsoever...

Posted by frog on August 31, 2014 14:58

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People won't need to pay for corruption if the receiver doesn't demand it to do their job or accept it to go around the rules so it's the recipient that is guilty at least a lot more than the giver

Posted by Anonymous on August 31, 2014 15:13

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On that time it was not a question, it was a clear warning. Bring me down and I bring you down.

Posted by Lena on August 31, 2014 16:40

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My definition of Corruption in Patong - When one person can coerce money from another by breaking the law so both stand to gain in one way or another.

Usually the coercer is the one with influence over Police/Government Law, the Coerced is a weak individual who sees nothing but Money by paying for protection.

Posted by Tbs on August 31, 2014 16:54

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When you clean a staircase you always start from the top.
Do the same with those people

Posted by Mj on August 31, 2014 19:16

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The easiest way to cut out one form of corruption (for bar owners having to drop off the monthly brown envelopes) would be to give all the islands west coast beaches a realistic "holiday island" closing time - 3 or 4am.

Posted by DG on September 1, 2014 06:21

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Great article
Great question

''Who is corrupt, the person who pays the bribe or the person who takes it?''

Will be interesting to see how high they go

Posted by Michael on September 1, 2014 07:15

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Good article - the Phuketwan is by far the best online information about Phuket. The others' navigation is as bad as Air Asia !

Posted by Jake on September 1, 2014 08:55

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There is obviously no real effort being made to stop this corruption from taking place. The President of the entertainment association says there are 14 agencies receiving payments. He must know who these are... Why is he not questioned about this? There is obviously someone doing the collecting of money. Why is it that he is not arrested and asked where the funds go? It's been going on for 200 years as Prab said because nobody is stopping it from happening.

Posted by tim on September 1, 2014 10:20

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@Editor

Pandora's box will Only be opened when Safety to all "Whistleblowers" will be granted, secured & guaranteed.

THIS MEANS no BAIL to anyone arrested currently from PISONA & Associates!

Posted by PhuketGreed on September 1, 2014 15:43

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@tim

The President of the entertainment association says there are 14 agencies receiving payments. He must know who these are... Why is he not questioned about this?

===

And how do you know, please, that he has not been questioned ?

I afraid you do not dissect properly various stages of criminal investigation, prosecution etc., and do not assign proper formal roles to participants in criminal procedure.

Hope you do not see the current arrests as a direct result of media publications or acting out of "it was known to everybody" kind of arguments.

It was few months during which agencies did their job - to detect possible subject of investigation, make a further plan for it, implement it - to define possible witnesses and other kind of evidence , to contact them , to make certain steps to get reliable statements( and at all), to provide it complies with a procedure - in order to be jubiliant today with court warrant and arrests orders in hand.

Moreover, details of investigation are classified until it is finalized and sent to court. And wider public may learn those details probably only at public hearing.

So nobody will take steps to explain who are the witnesses and what information they provided , and especially if they are themselves somehow culpable, and there was a deal with a prosecutor to provide witness statements and other witnesses in exchange for non-prosecution - as per criminal procedure code.

Posted by Sue on September 1, 2014 17:16


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