Chapter 1. An overview of governance and corruption in Thailand

This chapter assesses the current situation in Thailand with regards to governance and corruption. Looking at international indicators as well as the perspectives on corruption of both business and citizens in Thailand, the analysis shows that corruption and bribery are prevalent in both the public and the private sectors. These results highlight the need for Thailand to strengthen its governance framework and promote a culture of integrity to mitigate corruption risks.



Corruption perpetuates inequality and poverty, negatively affecting the well-being of citizens. It can result in the unequal distribution of income and undermine opportunities for individuals to participate in social, economic and political life (OECD, 2017[1]). Corruption also hampers a country’s economic development. Indeed, it has a negative impact on investment, competition, human capital formation and government efficiency. Erosion of public trust and widening socio-economic inequalities are exacerbated by corruption in the public sector. It is therefore imperative that governance systems contain strong mechanisms to mitigate the risks of corruption and to ensure the effective delivery of public services.

Integrity is essential for building strong institutions, and assures citizens that the government is working in their interest. Strengthening public integrity means shifting from ad hoc anti-corruption and integrity policies to a comprehensive, risk-based approach, with an emphasis on cultivating a culture of integrity across the whole of government and society. A sound governance system is needed to control corruption and provide a stable environment.

Thailand has benefited from socioeconomic development and improved well-being in the past 25 years, making significant gains in reducing poverty and inequality. The country’s Human Development Index (HDI) increased by 28.9% from 0.57 to 0.74 between 1990 and 2015, a figure that is slightly above the average of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries (Figure ‎1.1). In the same period, the country experienced fluctuations in economic growth during extended periods of social and political turmoil (Figure ‎1.2).

Figure ‎1.1. Human Development Index (2015)

Source: (UNDP,(n.d.)[2])

Figure ‎1.2. Thailand's growth in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita

Source: (The World Bank, 2017[3]).

To control corruption effectively and maintain trust in public institutions, a sound governance system must be in place. In Thailand, military state control of politics, interspersed with short periods of democracy, has characterised much of the country’s recent history. The current military government, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has sustained economic stability since it took power in 2014.

International governance and corruption indicators

Perception of corruption in Thailand remains significantly high. Thailand is perceived to be less corrupt than some of its neighbours, and is on an equal footing with the Philippines, but overall, its score is below the average of ASEAN countries (Figure ‎1.3). With regards to the components of the World Bank’s World Governance Indicators, Thailand is below the average of ASEAN and OECD countries (Figure ‎1.4). In the Index of Public Integrity (IPI) 2016, Thailand scores lower than the average of OECD countries that are included in the index, but performs better within the regional perspective (Figure ‎1.5).

Figure ‎1.3. Thailand’s Corruption Perception Index, in comparison with that of ASEAN and OECD countries

Note: Vietnam is not represented, since the relevant data was not available.

Source: (Transparency International, 2016[4])

Figure ‎1.4. World Governance Indicators 2016

Source: (The World Bank, 2016[5])

Figure ‎1.5. Index of Public Integrity (IPI) 2016

Note: The IPI aims to address a country’s capacity to control corruption based on composite scores in six sub-components: Freedom of the press, e-citizenship, budget transparency, trade openness, administrative burden and judicial independence. ASEAN countries covered are: Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. All OECD countries are included except Australia, Canada, Iceland, Israel, Japan and Switzerland.

Source: (European Research Centre for Anti-Corruption and State-Building, 2016[6])

The business perspective on corruption

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017, corruption is cited as the third biggest obstacle to doing business in Thailand, exceeded only by “government instability” and “inefficient government bureaucracy” (Figure ‎1.6).

Figure ‎1.6. Perceived obstacles to doing business in Thailand from the Global Competitiveness Report 2016-17

Source: (World Economic Forum, 2017[7])

Some of these factors are interrelated; indeed, when government bureaucracies are not fit for purpose, there are more opportunities for officials to engage in rent-seeking behaviour, such as extracting bribes. Government instability and the fourth most important problem listed, “policy instability”, may also mean that entrepreneurs looking to do business in Thailand may have to interact with an uncertain bureaucratic environment that is more susceptible to corruption.

In the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys, Thailand displays lower scores in areas related to gift-giving aimed at securing contracts or obtaining permits, but performs better in comparison to the rest of the region (Figure ‎1.7).

Figure ‎1.7. World Enterprise Surveys 2016

Source: (World Bank Group, 2016[8])

The citizen perspective on corruption

A report of the Global Corruption Barometer 2017 in the Asia Pacific region reveals that only 14% of people surveyed in Thailand believed that corruption had increased over the last year, the lowest percentage in the region (Figure ‎1.8).

Figure ‎1.8. Percentage of respondents who believe that corruption has increased in Asia Pacific countries

Source: (Transparency International, 2017[9])

There was also a positive response to government efforts, with 72% of respondents saying that the government is doing well in fighting corruption. Nevertheless, some serious problems persist at the institutional level: 78% of respondents consider the police to be highly corrupt, and 41% reported having to pay a bribe, give a gift or do a favour for somebody when accessing public services.

The review’s analytical framework for assessing public sector integrity

The previous section provides insight into how Thailand is affected by corruption in both the public and private sector, and underscores the need to strengthen anti-corruption and integrity policies to reinforce the country’s integrity system. With a view to supporting the Government of Thailand in this process and providing recommendations for ongoing reform, the OECD Integrity Review assesses the strengths and weaknesses of Thailand’s policies for public sector integrity (i.e. integrity practices for the public administration). In line with the recently approved OECD Recommendation of the Council on Public Integrity (Figure ‎1.9), the review specifically examines key dimensions of Thailand’s public integrity system and its implementation, including:

  • The coherence and comprehensiveness of the public integrity system: Chapter 2 describes the institutional architecture created by the national anti-corruption system, and how adequately it covers the key elements of strong public integrity systems. Recommended improvements for policies concerning public ethics are discussed in Chapter 3, while Chapter 4 analyses how effectively the Government of Thailand manages conflict-of-interest and asset declarations. The extent to which Thailand’s integrity policies cultivate a culture of integrity is evaluated, specifically by: i) promoting a whole-of-society approach to fighting corruption; ii) investing in integrity leadership; iii) promoting a merit-based professional public service; iv) providing information, training, guidance and advice for public officials; and v) supporting open organisational cultures responsive to public integrity concerns. Chapters 2 and 3, for instance, will examine the extent to which government institutions engage with non-governmental stakeholders in the fight against corruption. They also touch upon the linkages of integrity policies with human resources management practices (particularly recruitment, performance assessment, capacity building and training). Chapter 5 discusses how whistleblower protection and reporting mechanisms can contribute to an organisational culture that supports integrity standards.

Figure ‎1.9. 2017 OECD Recommendation on Public Integrity, showing the analytical framework for the integrity review

Source: (OECD, 2017[1])


[6] European Research Centre for Anti-Corruption and State-Building (2016), Index of Public Integrity,

[1] OECD (2017), OECD Recommendation of the Council on Public Integrity,

[5] The World Bank (2016), The World Bank Group World Governance Indicators,

[3] The World Bank (2017), The World Bank Group World Development Indicators, (accessed on 26 January 2018).

[4] Transparency International (2016), Corruption Perceptions Index,

[9] Transparency International (2017), Transparency International Asia Pacific Corruption Barometer,

[2] UNDP((n.d.)), Human Development Index (HDI), (accessed on 26 January 2018).

[8] World Bank Group (2016), World Enterprise Surveys,

[7] World Economic Forum (2017), The Global Competitiveness Report 2016–2017, (accessed on 26 January 2018).