The journalist

Sarinee Achavanuntakul

In the media world, Sarinee Achavanuntakul wears many hats: blogger, publisher, writer, translator, and editor. She is also co-founder of, a website dedicated to investigative journalism with a focus on transparency in the public and private sectors and sustainable development.
How does Thai society view corruption?
Thai society isn’t so different from other societies in the sense that corruption is not something that people feel they can do anything about, especially when it’s pervasive. It’s the kind of thing most of us don’t feel directly affected by. Damages from corruption mostly occur in the future, in the form of our children getting bad quality public services. Many funds are diverted to useless projects instead of real investments in education and health, for example. We feel like there’s nothing we can do because the more pervasive it is, the more we feel like we have to be part of that system.
What is the role of the media in fighting corruption?
Because corruption in Thailand is extremely pervasive, we need better ways to get information out. The media is crucial in terms of doing investigative news, and also in not honoring well-known corrupt figures. We know well-known corrupt officials who can still somehow go to social functions and people shake their hands and wai them. This has to stop. Social sanction is crucial to instil the sense, especially in the younger generations, that there are certain kinds of people we don’t want to honor. As long as the media still pays homage to corrupt politicians and to corrupt figures, it’s not going to change.
Can you talk about the potential of the internet in terms of exposing corruption?
The internet is a great platform because anonymity is important. A lot of people who have sensitive critical information naturally don’t want their identity exposed. The internet by nature protects your anonymity quite well, even though in Thailand we have very bad laws that can destroy that very quickly. The question then is how to make those people feel safe enough to volunteer information. How to pick out that kind of information and make it as effective as possible. So this goes back to the role of journalists. More journalists have to look at the internet as a place where they can do their job.
What other anti-corruption initiatives need to happen?
The anti-corruption initiatives from the private sector need a lot more resources commited to them in order to move them forward and not be just for show. They need to commit resources to establishing hotline centres where people can call in. They need a real mechanism to make people feel that it’s trustworthy and reliable. They can help push for better disclosure. They can help push for real standards on CSR—the real kind of CSR that includes anti-corruption as one of the key items. They can push for witness protection laws.
What are some myths about corruption?
The real myth is that we cannot do anything about it. If you look at the history of other countries, nobody has gone from an under-developed country to a more developed country without fighting corruption.