It has been acknowledged that corruption is one of the most serious national problems in Thailand, followed by its poor economy and high cost of living. In addition, most Thai people are ready and willing to forego financial gains in order to find a solution to this social problem. Yet the attempt to fight corruption in Thailand has generally focused on its large-scale manifestations, with minimal emphasis placed on petty corruption despite being considered the basis of grand corruption. As a result, petty corruption is less known to Thai people and not widely represented in its media as a social evil.
This thesis aims to investigate acts of petty corruption in Thai business practices by explonng the views and expenences of two groups of Thai business entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds. They include eight Thai business owners in Brisbane with business experiences in Thailand, and another eight business owners with a permanent base in Thailand who own and run their businesses in the country. These participants were purposefully selected through snowball sampling.
Specifically, this thesis aims to document and understand acts of petty comiption in business practices within a Thai cultural context. It analyses the reasons why petty corruption is being overlooked in business practices, and the possible strategic interventions that might be put in place to lessen the problem in Thailand. To achieve this, it incorporates a case study and aims to use the results to develop teaching materials and learning tools for students pursuing commerce and business studies, along with other business people more generally, in order to create awareness of petty comiption in Thai business practices and social transactions and the ways to minimise them.
The study's findings conclude that petty corruption is reinforced by the hierarchical nature of Thai society, both in terms of the inequity between rich and poor, along with Thai cultural values that emphasize submission, conformity, and interpersonal harmony, as opposed to confrontation and making a fuss. In addition, poverty has made many people more vulnerable and more inclined to look for alternate avenues to make extra cash, whether legal or otherwise. In particular, this has led some government officials to abuse their power and the authority conferred on them in government positions. On this point, the fact that government employees are seldom transferred or rotated to work in other departments has also contributed to the proliferation of a culture of corruption through group cohesion and identity, and individuals protected by the collectivity. At the same time, fazed by the hierarchical structure of bureaucracy individuals in the general public have little choice but to conform.
Two approaches have been suggested by informants to tackle the problem of petty corruption in Thailand. A top-down approach which emphasizes government regulation, calling for more transparency in decision-making and instituting an agency for anti-corruption are considered by some as possible strategies for minimizing petty corruption. However, others believe that such an approach is ineffective as it overlooks the core causes of petty corruption which are more related to Thai values of not taking a critical stand, along with the erosion of traditional morals and ethics. In their view, consciousness-raising, particularly through education and religious or spiritual teaching will be more effective in building people's capacity to reject and fend off petty corruption. Yet critical informants also point out that such an approach is impractical and not entirely feasible as its assumptions go against core Thai values of conforming and behaving politely. The unlikely prospect of seeing immediate changes might also make it difficult to initiate reforms and improvements.
While each of these approaches on their own may not be entirely effective however, on closer analysis both can contribute to raising awareness of petty corruption in Thai society. This suggests that by implementing both approaches concomitantly, social change may in fact be possible.