New results on corruption have been published by Transparency International, which is a noted and generally respected authority on the matter. These are the figures for Southeast Asia:
4. Singapore 9.2
47. Malaysia 5.1
80. Thailand 3.5
121. Vietnam 2.7
126. Indonesia 2.6
141. Philippines 2.3
145. East Timor (Timor-Leste) 2.2
151. Laos 2.0
166. Cambodia 1.6
178 Burma 1.3
(Brunei was not listed.) As ever, Singapore aside, these are fairly poor results for the whole region – given that economic and social/political development tend to proceed in tandem more or less, it would be expected that rankings here would approximate rankings in terms of overall economic development – most are much lower. Burma is only one place off the bottom and equal to Iraq. Cambodia is not much better.
Thailand has slowly improved over the years, especially since 2001, when various measures were implemented to improve government efficiency and reduce corruption opportunities – for example, electronic auctions when bidding for government contracts and introducing coherent ideology and party memberships to reduce the importance of vote-buying. The score declined in 2006 and 2007 because of the influence of the PAD mob preventing government action and during the disastrous military junta period. The results for this year are unlikely to be very positive, since the mob continues to prevent much of government business and this will automatically affect the score, given the methodology employed.
Of course, historically foreign investors have not always wanted to have a high transparency index when it means they can hide dubious corporate practices or collude in suppressing dangerous or abusive labour standards – we have seen our fair share of that in Thailand. However, it is no way to prepare for competitiveness in the future. The first thing to do will be to restore the rule of law and the principle that all people are equal before the law. Well, ‘restore’ is perhaps not the right word.
Do you want to be in my gang? Well, apparently not, Mr Glitter. After arriving here in Bangkok following release from Vietnam, Glitter – Paul Francis Gadd who looks pretty much the same as he did thirty years ago when he pranced on Top of the Pops in a silver suit and giant chopper motor bike, as I recall – refused to board the plane that was ready to take him and presumably other passengers back to Heathrow, where three dozen police officers were waiting for him – not sure why so many are necessary but perhaps crime is at a low ebb in London (this report comes from the Telegraph so it might just be made up altogether).
He claimed to be suffering from a heart attack and earache, simultaneously, and was taken away to see a doctor, who diagnosed him as suffering from costochondritis – a rib infection that causes pain, presumably it is understandable that a person would think himself to be suffering a heart attack under those circumstances. Google offers a whole raft of web pages saying this is a genuine ailment and usually not serious. Something of a coincidence though.
Anyway, Glitter subsequently purchases a ticket to Hong Kong and flew there using his British passport – but was apparently denied a visa – curious since a visa is not required for Hong Kong. Perhaps the authorities just decided he was too much trouble. Now he is reported to be thinking of Singapore or Sri Lanka – how do they know? He would not presumably wish to tell the press where he was going – the fear of mob action stirred up by irresponsible tabloids is likely to have influenced him to stay away from Britain in my opinion. Singapore is not likely to offer a very sympathetic port, unless he has some means of slipping off to a distant island. Sri Lanka was the long-term home of Arthur C. Clarke, although that of course is a complete coincidence and all accusations against him were retracted after the police declared him innocent of all charges. We’re fortunate the press is so much more professional here.
There have been a couple of stories recently about new finds of ancient dinosaur footprints in Isaan, although these have not yet made it to the technical media (e.g. here). New footprints found date back to around 210 million years BP and are believed to show sauropods, carnosaurs and an unknown species. The prints would be the earliest ever recorded in the first two cases. They are said to have been found were found early last month in Ban None Toom, in Chaiyapum’s Nong Bua Daeng district.
The mainland of Southeast Asia is proving to be quite a fertile place for discoveries of this sort – new dinosaur finds of one sort or another are reported regularly, although the popular press does not always convey the details in scientific fashion. The region has long been a crossroads for people and creatures going backwards and forwards, its tropical climate helps provide rich sources of food and so forth – probably it was all different in the past, I em, to paraphrase Sir Alf Ramsey, not a archaeologist.
However, very little archaeology has actually been done in the area. First, the terrain is actually quite difficult for getting about, what with all the mountains and the forests (now mostly cut down, of course). Lack of infrastructure also contributes to the difficult in getting people and equipment to where they might be required. Second, there is a general lack of technical capacity – that is, not enough people trained in archaeology or similar fields able to recognise where excavation would be helpful and how to do it. Third, endemic warfare and the widespread planting of landmines, not to mention the unexploded ordnance from US planes and the effects of Agent Orange have all made it quite dangerous to wander about the countryside (my mother was once chased upstairs in a temple by a very mobile one-legged beggar, but that is another story). And last but not least, the lack of the rule of law means that whenever anything valuable is found, people’s first instinct is to try to cash in on it with an immediate sale to a dealer. A great deal of the treasures of the past has been dissipated this way.