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Explaining the Failure of Thailand's Anti-corruption Regime


  • Alex M. Mutebi

    1. Assistant Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore, 469C Bukit Timah Road, Oei Tiong Ham Building, Singapore 259772.
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  • This article was originally presented at the International Workshop on Governance in Asia, jointly sponsored by the Asian Political and International Studies Association and the Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, Malaysia (13–14 December 2006). I would like to thank the various participants for their comments on the original version of the paper. I also thank Nayaranan Ganesan, Michael Montesano and the anonymous referees of this journal for additional comments on earlier versions. The standard caveat applies.


Despite the presence of strong anti-corruption policies, state and regulatory capture may persist and thrive in the highest echelons of government. This article explores such a case, that of Thailand under former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. The author argues that the primary explanation for this contradiction lies in Thailand's post-1997 anti-corruption framework. Because of the ascendancy of a business–politics nexus more powerful in blocking reform than Thai constitutional drafters had anticipated, and because of the decline in political contestability as a result of Thaksin's control of both the legislature and the executive, the stage was set for a dramatic increase in the levels of state capture. The author suggests that effective control of such political corruption calls for a strategy which extends far beyond the technocratic approaches used by Thai reformers in the mid to late 1990s.