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Bribespot Thailand: Effective Anti-Corruption Tool Or Mere Outlet For Disgruntled Victims?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, August 23 2013

Screenshot of Bribespot Thailand

An anti-corruption intiative originally from Lithuania has been repurposed in Thailand. Bribespot Thailand officially launched two weeks ago, and already has more than 80 official reports of bribes demanded. The nonprofit hopes the initiative will empower citizens to report bribery in the public sector immediately, and to raise the Thai authorities' awareness of the scope and pervasiveness of petty corruption.

Bribespot Thailand is available as a smartphone app and a website through which reports can be submitted and then plotted on a Google map of the country. Reports consist of a geographical location, the kind of public servant involved (e.g., police), and the amount of the bribe.

Nearly a quarter of those surveyed in Thailand by Transparency International reported paying a bribe at some point in 2010. While Transparency International reports offer an excellent big picture, an initiative like Bribespot has the potential to provide a current snapshot of the state of low level corruption in Thailand.

A Bangkok Post editorial expresses disdain for and pessimism about Bribespot Thailand:

The sad fact is that virtually every allegation of corruption, bribery or intimidation is credible, if not provable. The culture of corruption is often discussed, but less frequently acted upon.

In addition to the difficulty of gathering evidence and punishing the bribe taker, the truth is that the country in no way seems committed to fighting even large-scale corruption at government level, never mind the petty bribery of a traffic violation, a district office's transaction or a school's tea money.

While Bribespot Thailand provides an outlet for complaints, it does virtually nothing to address the problem of corruption.

Bribespot Thailand is addressing corruption, but not in the way the authors of that editorial piece expect or desire them to address corruption. On the Bribespot Thailand about page, they explain “the uniqueness of Bribespot Thailand lies in the fact that users post details of bribe requests as an act of empowerment and not with the intention of making an official complaint.”

It is unclear what they will do about bribery once everyone is feeling good and empowered.

According to TechInAsia, most of the traffic on the site is coming from Facebook:

As a NPO, Bribespot Thailand relies mostly on online PR – news from bloggers, online news, Facebook ads (almost 10,000 clicks so far), an ad network called AdYim (more than 6,000 clicks), its Facebook page, and Twitter. However, to raise awareness, it also invested a little in two billboards and one LED spot. But the traffic mostly comes from Facebook.

Although it’s been less than a month, Bribespot Thailand’s Facebook page has over 1,000 fans with over 600 people talking about it. That’s from zero to 1,000 in two weeks. The team is pretty happy with that number.

Bribespot Thailand wants to empower people to feel like they should, and can, change the status quo. Whether they will feel that way after seeing hundreds of posts go up, and nobody held accountable, is yet to be seen.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.