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Thai Traffic Cops Offered Cash to Turn Down Bribes

  • Reuters

FILE - A policeman directs traffic as residents move through the floods as it advances into central Bangkok.

FILE - A policeman directs traffic as residents move through the floods as it advances into central Bangkok.

Thailand's traffic policemen will get money in return for refusing bribes, police said on Thursday, part of the junta's efforts to combat what it has called an ingrained culture of corruption within the force.

The army seized power in May after months of protests aimed at ousting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand's first female prime minister, saying it needed to restore order after nearly 30 people were killed in sporadic political violence.

Since then, the military government has launched campaigns aimed at cleaning up Thailand's image as a haven for vice.

The junta has clamped down on taxi gangs at airports, targeted drug users by ordering more police checks and has even vowed to curb bad behavior among Buddhist monks to protect the image of the religion in the predominantly Buddhist country.

“This monetary incentive will encourage officers to look out for traffic violators who try to bribe,” said Police Major General Adul Narongsak, deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, adding that two policemen were recently awarded 10,000 baht ($310) for refusing a $3 bribe.

Restructuring police force

The junta has set about restructuring the police force and ridding it of a “bribes for jobs” culture, a main demand of the protesters who helped trigger Yingluck's ouster.

It wants to depoliticize a force that has been closely associated with Yingluck's brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a 2006 coup but remains the country's most influential politician.

Thaksin is a former police officer and placed allies in the most powerful positions in the force. He fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid a jail term for graft and has lived in exile abroad since.

Thailand has been divided for nearly a decade between Thaksin's allies and his critics.

Thai police salaries start at about 6,000 baht ($185) a month, according to 2013 data, well below the national average.

Bribing is not uncommon

For motorists in Bangkok, where traffic snarl-ups are among the world's worst, slipping a policeman a banknote or two when stopped for a minor traffic offense is not uncommon. But motorists might soon find their offers being turned down.

“We want to change perceptions and practices and to reward those who show that they are clean,” said Adul.

And for those policemen who might still be tempted by a backhander?

“We encourage people to take photographs as evidence,” Adul said.

Thailand was ranked 102 out of 177 countries in Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.