Autocratic rule suppresses rights but leaves most private enterprise to operate freely. But the persistent problem of corruption at all levels hampers growth and investment. The judiciary is under the Ministry of Justice, and there is no effective judicial review. The bureaucracy makes rules that supercede whatever constitution is in force, and new governments revoke the constitution altogether.
Leftist student and labor groups are frequent victims of violence by rightist paramilitaries, with police support. A corruption watchdog is set up, but it has weak investigatory powers and cannot prosecute suspects at all, so complaints go nowhere. Prime Minister Kukrit Pramoj attempts to raise corruption cases and is forced to resign by the army.
Economic growth expands the scale and opportunity of corruption. The practice of "money politics" entails buying of votes and positions, and politics remains a matter of dividing spoils, not making policies. Corporate governance, auditing, and antitrust measures are extremely weak. In 1995 the prime minister and his Cabinet resign in a scandal tied to manipulation of forest lands.
The most democratic constitution to date includes a National Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC) and an Electoral Commission. A constitutional court at last introduces control to the bureaucracy's unchallenged authority. Politicians must now make their assets available to the NCCC, and in some cases the public, to the delight of the press. These are key reforms, but corruption is well entrenched.
Despite the Electoral Commission's work, roughly $460 million goes to buy votes in the January 2001 elections. New prime minister Thaksin is cleared of corruption charges by a court in August 2001 in a decision that brings short-term stability but also less confidence in the rule of law. Pledges to fight corruption do not result in any major prosecutions or charges.
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