Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Monk Asks Hiding Convicts To Turn Themselves In

Rakkiat Rakkhitadhammo, a former public health minister who is now a Buddhist monk, has called on convicted former politicians fleeing punishment to learn a lesson from his life by turning themselves in to the authorities.

Phra Rakkiat did not name any politicians in particular. He said no one in the world could escape the law of karma, or the consequences of their actions. Sooner or later it would happen to them.

"Even though these people can now escape legal punishment and are able to stay abroad freely, they can't flee the hell in their minds," the monk said yesterday at a National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) forum to launch its graft prevention network.

Phra Rakkiat entered the monkhood at an Udon Thani temple about a year ago after he was granted parole by the Corrections Department for good behaviour, having served five of his 15-year jail term. His prison term is now officially completed having received a royal pardon on Coronation Day this year.

The former public health minister (known then by his family name Sukthana) was charged with taking a five million baht bribe from a drug firm. The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions found him guilty in October 2003.

"I faced a lot of difficulties while fleeing. Several politician friends of mine who now have a bright future dared not take my phone calls as they were afraid the NACC would eavesdrop on their phone lines and draw them into my case. So I got no help from them.

"I only spent 100 baht a day and had to hide from the public. I didn't go abroad. I only stayed in Bangkok with my relatives. My life was so terrible," he said.

Phra Rakkiat said he was very relieved when he was approached and arrested by Nonthaburi police after they received a tip-off from someone who saw him at a public park. He said he did not surrender to authorities initially because he feared prison life and could still not accept the truth that he was a criminal.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who presided over the NACC forum, urged all Thais to keep an eye on graft in state-run projects and provide the NACC with concrete information and evidence so that those involved would be investigated