New Anti-Bribery Law from UK to Help Against Corruption in Thailand

The Bribery Act 2010 which effected last July 1, 2010, would hopefully reinvigorate anti-corruption efforts in Thailand by keeping in compliance with the Thai companies that are doing business with British firms or operating in the UK. According to the experts, the law prohibits UK firms from offering bribes to foreign public officials.

In a seminar hosted by the Thai Institute of Directors, Phatra Capital chairman Banyong Pongpanich said that laws such as the Bribery Act 2010 which are being imposed by developed countries will in effect help developing countries curb corruption. He also believed that political violence and the increasing income gap between the rich and the poor could be traced back to the problem of widespread corruption in the country. The United States, UK, and Germany all share similar laws prohibiting their businesses from initiating bribery with foreign politicians and officials. While France, Spain, China, and other emerging superpowers are yet to enact the same law, he expressed that Thailand too should follow suit.

Total eradication of corruption would be very difficult, as it stems from a common belief that doing business without offering bribes to politicians and officials cuts down their chances of surviving in the market. This is probably why out of the 500 Thai listed companies, a mere 47 have participated in the campaign against corruption spearheaded by the IOD and the Thai Chamber of Commerce. Shell Thailand’s country chairperson Pissawan Achanapornkul shares Banyong’s perspective and believes that this law from the UK would at least initiate awareness about the anti-corruption movement.

Bradley Jones, the trade and investment director at the British Embassy in Bangkok, said that the Bribery Act 2010 would allow for UK firms to be prosecuted even if their acts were lawful under the local laws of foreign countries. He also shared that though bribery is being made illegal and punishable, British companies and firms could still offer acts of hospitality such as dining or light recreation like golf, as long as the expenditure is reasonable and justifiable. Furthermore, firms should also take extra effort to make sure that all their business representatives, whether formally employed or outsourced third party, are aware of the law as it imposes companies to take liability for bribery that would be committed by any associated person to win business advantage for their firm.

Peter Shelford, DLA Piper (Thailand)’s country marketing partner said that the Bribery Act is a precursor to what would be the toughest enforcement regime in any jurisdiction. Penalties under the said law could be severe, ranging from unlimited fines and imprisonment for up to 10 years to disbarment from public procurement contracts and asset confiscation.

 

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