Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thailand and Malaysia are different



Thailand and Malaysia are different

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Former Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak (centre) speaks to journalists after a court appearance in Kuala Lumpur on September 20. MOHD RASFAN/AFP

Thailand and Malaysia are different

The Nation (Thailand): TElltale reports have come out of neighbouring Southeast Asian nations in recent days that underline their respective situations regarding politics and the fight against corruption.

In Malaysia, a former prime minister was charged with massive graft. In Thailand, it was admitted that a high-profile corruption case that helped tear the country in two along ideological lines is expiring after a long and tumultuous decade.

Former Malaysian premier Najib Razak now faces 32 charges in connection with the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal. Prosecutors say he used his position to fatten the 1MDB fund between 2011 and 2014 while filtering at least $13.9 million into his personal bank accounts.

Former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, it’s been acknowledged, has been in self-exile overseas long enough to nullify any legal penalty from his conviction in the Ratchapisek land-purchase case in which he was found guilty in absentia 10 years ago.

The court ruled he had allowed his ex-wife Pojaman to buy a state-auctioned property and ordered him jailed for two years. By then he had already fled his homeland. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Kreangam now says that, as of October 21, Thaksin will no longer be liable to serve the sentence because the statute-of-limitations is expiring.

There are both glaring similarities and differences in the two affairs.

Najib and Thaksin were both accused of corruption, were subjected to massive street protests, vehemently proclaimed their innocence and insisted that the charges against them were part of conspiratorial plots.

Thaksin was widely regarded as a “champion of the poor”, while Najib was lauded for his anti-poverty efforts.

The voters ultimately ousted Najib, but Thaksin and those he chose as stand-ins in his absence won every election they contested. Photos have shown Najib, under arrest, enduring a humiliating legal process.

Thaksin, travelling freely, is pictured in posh shopping malls and at famous tourist landmarks. It took two military coups to take down Thaksin and his surrogates.

Najib fell in democratic polling. Hundreds of Thais, including many innocent bystanders, died in political violence, but the popular uprising against Najib was comparatively peaceful.

It is obvious which country is handling its graft problems better so far. It is also clear that neither Najib’s clout nor his failings have escalated into a destructive national divide as yet.

Like Thaksin, Najib was once recognised for his deft handling of the economy. But Thaksin irrevocably stained his legacy with an ill-considered “war on drugs” and brutal rights abuses in the South.

Najib, in contrast, lifted a ban on the opposition press and released prisoners held under an infamous security law.

Thaksin was highly popular and Najib was on his way to becoming a legend in Malaysian politics. Then grievous allegations of graft felled both of them. So Malaysia is far ahead of Thailand in its handling of political transparency, even if there is room for speculation about what might have transpired if Najib had won the May election and remained in power.

The jury is still out on Thailand’ future dealings with graft. Both men are portraying themselves as victims while their crimes or alleged crimes are being tackled differently.

Political transparency is, after all, a vague enough term, and fighting for it is a marathon, not a short-distance sprint.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia resumes issuance of tourist visas

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has announced the resumption of its tourist visa and visa exemption programme after a long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In a letter dated October 20 and addressed to foreign embassies and consulates, foreign minister Prak Sokhonn

  • S’ville set to turn into ‘second Shenzhen’

    The Ministry of Economy and Finance has awarded a master plan consultancy contract to top Chinese institute for the development and transformation of Preah Sihanouk province into a “Model Multi-Purpose Special Economic Zone”, Southeast Asia’s next logistics and resort hub and innovation centre. The