There are people who believe that if Thailand could just stop corrupt politicians from ever getting elected, then the Kingdom would once and for all be free of graft. Few, however, understand that graft, corruption and bribery, at least in its legal, subtle and insidious forms, is very much part of Thai culture and society.
Take, for example, the daily requests and prayers offered at Hindu and Buddhist altars, to animistic deities and the statue of King Rama V. They always come with a promise of an offering if the wishes are “granted” and the “repayment” for such supernatural favours range from flowers, wooden elephants, statuettes of dancers to running around stark naked, depending on how big the wish is.
Besides, these offerings are not just the norm among the less-educated Thais. Many “well-educated” people also make such offerings in exchange for good grades, enrolment at prestigious colleges or promotions at work.
Then there’s the widespread practice of acquiring and wearing Buddhist amulets in the belief they can make the wearer popular, rich, sexually attractive or even strong enough to withstand the impact of bullets. Whether these offerings are reliable or not, the issue is that for many who believe in them, they are also a form of bribery.
Another aspect of subtle corruption is favouritism within the old boys’ network. When your old school chum calls you up asking for a favour that might be seen by some as nepotism, it’s often very difficult to say no.