Gen Prem Tinsulanonda has pleaded with the government to keep
a clear conscience, saying it is not genuinely committed to good
governance if it merely observes the law but still flouts ethical
and moral principles.
In his speech on ''Ethics for Public Administration'' to mark
the 50th anniversary of the National Institute for Development
Administration's faculty of public administration yesterday, Gen
Prem said following the rule of law is ''the lowest level'' of
Gen Prem, also the Privy Council president and former prime minister,
said the law was often written after problems occurred and might
not be sacred enough, while the powers-that-be also might refuse
to issue a law that could deprive them and their cronies of their
He said the arms of the law were not long enough to reach politicians
who did not register their marriages so their spouses did not
have to declare their assets, those who gave verbal rather than
written orders to government officials to do ill deeds, and those
who sought to appoint their henchmen to political positions that
did not exist in the law, such as assistants to ministers, so
they did not have to reveal their financial statements.
''In other countries, accountability, transparency, participation
and predictability are part and parcel of good governance. In
Thailand, we must also add moral and ethical principles,'' he
Gen Prem said that under unethical leaders, administration of
the state would fail, adding the seven qualities government leaders
must have were honesty, legitimacy, fairness, efficiency, transparency,
good values and embody the security of the state.
''One must be honest and make sure others are too. Greed-driven
administrators are the root of corruption.
''Some practices are not wrong under the law but raise troubling
ethical questions, such as the thing about conflict of interest.
''The law bars one doing something, but is not applied to one's
family, siblings and relatives,'' he said.
Administrators also must not exploit loopholes in the law for
their own gain, must not use double or multiple standards in their
management, must provide the public with free access to useful
state information and must settle problems in ways that do not
affect rights and freedom.
Gen Prem also voiced concern about a status-obsessed Thai society,
saying people seemed to have no sense of right or wrong.
''It is worrisome and dangerous to worship rich people, more so
if you blindly believe that they are good and give them respect
without asking them how they earn their money,'' he said.
In a seminar that followed, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, of the
faculty of public administration, presented political reform ideas
which included direct elections for prime minister.
Mr Sombat said the strongest elected civilian government did not
guarantee transparency and a government with stability could still
be plagued with corruption, causing public trust and faith to
He said the charter should be amended to ensure a separation of
powers where the executive and legislative branches are independent
from each other.
The prime minister should be directly elected to ''free'' him
from the legislative branch.
''If the prime minister is elected directly, he will no longer
have to depend on the House to vote him to the premiership.''
People also would have an array of candidates to choose from,
as parties could name anyone other than their leaders and select
the finalists through the primary vote system.
Direct elections for prime minister would make vote-buying more
difficult. Candidates also would not have to ''invest'' in contestants
vying for House seats because they would not need them to get
elected so they could vote them to Government House.