Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Thailand Film Festival
by Mark Beales
19 March 2010
The complaint claimed that UTStarcom spent almost US$7 million on expensive presents and visits to the US for governmental customers in China and Thailand. This is said to have taken place between 2002 and 2007.
Courts records revealed that: “UTSI provided or offered full time employment with UTSI in the US, including salaries and other benefits, to employees of government customers or their family members in China and Thailand. These offers were made for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business from the customers.”
While UTSI was waiting to hear whether it had won a particular contract, the company’s general manager in Thailand had splashed out almost US$10,000 on French wine, which was then offered to agents of the government customer.
The company was treated relatively leniently as it admitted the mistake and assisted the Department of Justice with its investigation. UTSI makes and sells network equipment and handsets and most of its major customers are based in China.
Juthamas Siriwan has denied any involvement in the Green case, and so can hardly expect as much leniency if she is found guilty. As TAT governor, she was a very public figure with political ambitions who headed up one of the country’s leading tourism events.
Troubled festival started well
The curtain first went up on the Bangkok International Film Festival in 2003, a spin-off from a previous TAT collaboration with The Nation Multimedia company.
During the first few years it managed to attract several Hollywood stars, including Michael Douglas, Oliver Stone, Terry Gilliam and Steven Seagal. Glitzy cocktail parties were held and films from across Asia and beyond were screened, culminating in an Oscar-style awards ceremony for the Golden Kinnaree.
All went well until 2007, when the festival began to have problems. Following a coup in 2006, the festival’s budget was slashed and the 2007 festival was postponed from January to July. In 2008 the festival was supposed to take place in July but eventually was held in September.
Now its website talks of the 2009 festival but there is no indication when this year’s one may take place.
Whatever happens to Juthamas and her daughter, the case has highlighted the seriousness with which the US treats corruption, and shows that it is capable of taking action wherever in the world such acts occur.
Thailand, and especially Bangkok, has long desired to be seen as an industrialized, developed nation that is capable of competing on a world stage. However, to do that it will have to learn how to compete fairly in the eyes of others. Paying officials to get things done may be something of a tradition in Thailand, but it’s one that will have to end if the country wishes to improve its international integrity and credibility.
All this will doubtless be among the matters discussed when the International Anti-Corruption Conference comes to Thailand in November, a visit that some may feel could not come at a better time.
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