Open Data help with Anti-Corruption in Digital Age

Mr. Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), delivered a lecture on "Open Data: Anti-Corruption Weaponry in Digital Age" at the PPTV FORUM 2023, on May 25, 2023. Taking up the theme of Open Government: Game Changer in Fight against Corruption, the event was held at Movenpick BDMS Wellness Resort Bangkok.

Kasemmongkol said that the promotion of transparency and open government data are the core of good governance or good public management. Both the United Nations and the World Bank have recognized this promotion as key to successful development efforts in many nations around the world. Such principles are also enshrined in Sections 76 and 164 of Thailand's Constitution.

Section 76 stipulates that the state must promote the development of morality and transparency in accordance with the principles of good public management among all types of state organizations so as to deliver maximum benefits to people via state functions and services that uphold equality, quality, efficiency and transparency. People therefore are direct beneficiaries. Section 164, meanwhile, states that the government must ensure and arrange for good public management. Therefore, the promotion of transparency via open government data and ethical state operations have had utmost importance.

Good governance or good public management has six pillars namely 1) Rule of Law; 2) Transparency & Data Disclosure that is being discussed today; 3) Morality; 4) Public Participation in State Operations; 5) Responsibility; and 6) Cost-efficient & Time-Efficient State Operations.

Regarding the NACC Board's and the government's policies on the promotion of good governance and anti-corruption in the public sector, multidimensional guidelines have been laid down as follows:

1. The promotion is enshrined in the constitution;

2. The promotion is enshrined in the Anti-Corruption Act and many laws on the administration of state affairs; and

3. The promotion is a part of national strategies, master plans, and action plans of each government agency.

The NACC Board and the government have issued many measures to enhance the integrity of state officials. Nowadays, state officials' corruption risk is significantly lower than in the past. Even if corrupt practices are undetected in the beginning, investigations can be launched retroactively.

One of the anti-corruption measures used by the NACC and the government is the promotion of transparency. There are many tools for the promotion such as information laws and legislations that upgrade digital-government operations.

Kasemmongkol said that people needed to physically go to government agencies to receive their services in the past. Officials also had the right to call in people and have face-to-face meetings involved talks. Negotiations for bribes may emerge during such meetings. So, if our bureaucratic system has reduced face-to-face meetings between people and state officials, or if we use other means of contacts, the risk of bribery talks will be lower. The new way of contacts can also save state budget as well as people's money. Several countries have already developed digital systems to facilitate state operations or digitalized state services.

The development of digital-government operations starts by integrating systems for enhanced efficiency or service delivery in the way that reduces the exercising of state officials' judgements, curbs the risk of corruption, and promotes greater government-data disclosure for better transparency. The NACC, in collaboration with the government, has already pushed for several relevant laws for the development of state operations and good governance. Moreover, the NACC has launched the Integrity and Transparency Assessment (ITA) as a key tool.

On laws related to the promotion of transparency and good governance in the public sector, the Act on Management of State Affairs by Electronic Means B.E. 2565 stipulates that to seek an approval, a permit, a tax refund, a certificate, a registration, a construction permit or the likes, people no longer have to queue up physically at government agencies. They can just file requests electronically. After this act came into force and related systems sprang into operations, people can just contact authorities online. They do not have to travel to government agencies. Such approach saves people's time in contacting government agencies. There is no need for face-to-face contact, which may lead to negotiations for bribes.

Several other laws have also been introduced to increase bureaucracy's efficiency and to prevent bribery. For example, the Licensing Facilitation Act B.E. 2558 requires that each government agency specify clearly how long it will take to respond to each request. In the past, people had waited really long to get response because there was no clear timeframe. Traders, entrepreneurs, and people who wanted fast results thus ended up paying bribes to shorten the period of government agency's request review. However, with the Licensing Facilitation Act in place, agencies of all ministries and departments must release a manual detailing how long it will take for them to complete each task. If they fail to comply with the timeframe, a person contacting them may file a complaint. This is just one of many laws that country have introduced to curb corruption risks.

Regarding the promotion of open data, the NACC Board and the government have worked together in preparing several measures. One of them is ITA. Everyone wants to see transparency in the public sector and comprehensive data disclosure so, currently basic data that are useful to both the people's sector and the private sector; government agencies' performance data, and importantly data related to budgets and procurements are open data that all government agencies must release to the public. They must be held accountable and ready to provide explanations to the public. Such data had not been treated as the government's confidential information anymore. The principles behind such data disclosure have applied to NACC's ITA model. All government agencies therefore have to embrace these principles as they seek to comply with ITA criteria.

Kasemmongkol thought that many of people must be quite familiar with ITA and that some of them may have doubts or misunderstandings about it. Therefore, he provided clarification about ITA and its objectives.

He said ITA is not mainly designed as an assessment of corrupt practices. In essence, it is about assessing good governance in regard to management and tools used for the implementation of anti-corruption projects / activities. It is therefore a tool for state agencies to improve their operations or e-services, and importantly to disclose data in line with laws and strategies, paving the way for these agencies to have good governance and lower corruption or abuse-of-authority risks. Based on its indicators and assessment topics, ITA gives 95 points to the management and implementation of projects / activities and five points to the awareness of corruption issues among personnel.

To make it easier to understand, he compared ITA to a basic health check. With this check, we will be able to identify abnormalities in one's body or if any body function is below standard. Upon learning about the abnormalities or the function that fails to meet proper standard, patients need to adjust their behaviors.

He emphasized that ITA is not a medicine. It cannot provide recovery. But patients can recover or regain good health, if they change their behaviors (for example by improving their operations and management). Family members must also help by creating a proper environment (for example by issuing supportive legal measures and state supervision). If patients follow such guidelines, they can become stronger. But if they do not change or ignore problems, cancer may develop. In the end, their illness may worsen to the point of a crisis and the NACC will have to use legal actions to remove those cancerous problems.

Kasemmongkol said that during the past many years, changes have been happening with the digitalization of state operations. Data disclosure has increased in a tangible manner in compliance with laws.

The NACC Board and the government have used the aforementioned measures and framework to improve state operations and deter state officials' wayward behaviors. If all sides have followed these measures and framework on a continual basis, all civil servants and state officials will become familiar with such practices. Over time, their conscience and attitude will change in line with such standards. They will behave accordingly, regardless of these measures and framework. Civil servants and state officials will in the end be accustomed to serving people, ensuring public convenience, and refraining from corruption or abuse of authority.

Hospitals Detect Hepatitis Early with Molecular Diagnostic Solution

Tianlong, an innovative high-tech company specializing in molecular diagnostic products in China, has partnered with public hospitals in northern Thailand to build up detection measures for hepatitis C (HCV) and hepatitis B (HBV), and for the early diagnosis and treatment of the viruses. Globally, more than 350 million people are living with viral hepatitis, and 9 in ten people living with hepatitis are unaware of their diagnosis. Tianlong's HCV&HBV detection solution can help reduce the transmission of the disease by enabling early diagnosis and proper treatment.

Tianlong's HCV&HBV detection solution has been successfully installed in public hospitals in Thailand, and its solution will be seen in more local hospitals in the future. Tianlong's HCV&HBV reagents, compatible with its nucleic acid extractor PANA9600S and PCR system Gentier 96, provide a rapid test with high sensitivity, which has received great praise from high-end users.

"Tianlong can give timely responses both online and offline when we need technical support. We have great confidence in Tianlong's products, and we would welcome more cooperation in the future," said a local hospital representative in Thailand.

Tianlong's STIs solutions will also be applied in Thailand soon to help prevent and control sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Tianlong is committed to expanding its presence in Thailand and working closely with local partners to provide excellent solutions and services for its customers. The company believes that its molecular diagnostic solutions for hepatitis and other diseases will become increasingly popular in the local market, helping to improve the health and well-being of local people.

Tianlong is an innovative high-tech company specializing in molecular diagnostic products in China. Since its foundation in 1997, Tianlong has devoted itself to providing integrated PCR lab solutions for professionals worldwide. The company has a wide range of products, ranging from devices to reagents, including nucleic acid extractors, real-time PCR systems, all-in-one molecular diagnosis systems, sample processing systems, liquid handling systems, and 300 kinds of compatible reagents.

Thailand celebrates sensational rainbow phenomenon

Celebrate Pride Month: experience the magic of colourful Pride festivals here in Thailand, supporting and celebrating the LGBTQIAN+ community. Join the Spectacular Pride parade at Central World shopping center – one of a leader of the celebration of the Pride festival in Thailand, JVs with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Thailand, partners from government and private sectors led by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Galderma Thailand, Muse by Metinee, Bangkok PRIDE and Tiffany's Show Pattaya Co., Ltd. to roll out the great celebration of THAILAND'S PRIDE CELEBRATION 2023 – 'PRIDE FOR ALL'

The Biggest Pride Parade – waving rainbow flags in eight branches nationwide led by 'Proud to be Pride' at Central World with the show 'Fly High In The Sky for Pride' and Fashion Parade that gathers over 500+ models together with the 'This is my look' Parade from Galderma (Thailand) to express self-expression with confidence and charm. Followed by the sensational 'Pride Concert' by Thailand's leading artists.

Echoing voices of diversity and equality with the Bangkok Pride 2023 parade, which Central World co-hosted with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration in addition to Naruemit Pride. The parade are moved from the Pathumwan intersection to the Ratchaprasong intersection at Central World, waving the beautiful and spectacular 144.8-meter rainbow flag with hundreds of thousands of people joining the grand procession. Enjoy special shows, mini concerts and celebrations of gender diversity attended by provincial governors ambassadors, government agencies and representatives from the LGBTQIAN+ community.

Pride Talk with UNDP, listen to discussions from key persons in the LGBTQIAN+ community at centralwOrld, Central Pattaya, Phuket, Udonthani, Khon Kaen, Chiangmai and Chonburi. Enjoy Pride Competitions of Miss International Queen with national costumes at centralwOrld. Pride Vibe – experience an art installation from artist: 'Teayii' Prapatsorn with her work: 'Seat a Pride' throughout two full months at centralwOrld (June-July 2023) and at Central Chonburi under the art concept of 'Mirror Mirror: Reflect Yourself'.

Thai Leaf aims for CBD breakthrough in healthcare industry

As Thailand is now the first country in ASEAN to liberalize hemp and cannabis for medical use, Thai Leaf Biotechnology Co., Ltd. has unveiled its plan to develop products with CBD extract, to address the needs of the medical and healthcare market in Thailand and ASEAN.

From recent developments in the Thai market, it is understandable for consumers and the general public to have controversial issues and resistance to this important breakthrough, as they are still confused between hemp and marijuana - the two varieties within the Cannabis family. Christopher Utz, Director of Product Development at Thai Leaf explained that the clear difference is that hemp contains high levels of CBD but low levels of THC, making it safe, unlike marijuana, which has THC levels in excess of 0.2%, making it narcotic, or making one "high". Generally speaking, THC acts on the nervous system to give an intoxicating effect, while CBD has no side effects, but has numerous therapeutic and medical benefits, as well as bringing the body back to its "neutral strange". Simply put, hemp is known for health as opposed to marijuana which is used for recreational purposes.

Not generally known, hemp is one of the most useful plants on Earth. Among thousand other uses, it can be used to make materials, ropes, textiles, and paper, it can be used as fuel and can also be consumed. More recently, it has been developed for nutraceutical and pharmaceutical use.

Mr. Utz further emphasized the science behind the benefits of CBD discovered merely 30 years ago. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological regulating system comprised of molecules called endocannabinoids naturally produced by the human body, -i.e. to help maintain homeostasis or, in other words, "balancing" your body, easing pain, sleep, mood, energy, inflammation and appetite. Cannabinoids such as CBD are found naturally within the cannabis plant and can mimic the functions of endocannabinoids and help to address any imbalance within the body.

Mr. Utz looks forward to the introduction of Thai Leaf's outstanding hemp-infused nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products in 2023. All Thai Leaf products have a tremendous amount of experience and research behind them and they will have a noticeable health impact for its consumers.

Robert Traill, President of Thai Leaf announced that Thai Leaf has a 3-year research collaboration with world's leading Cornell University, in the United States to develop a new tropical hemp strain for Thailand. The new strain would be able to grow with shorter day-lengths, be resistant to mold and have high CBD potency with negligible THC.

With the founders' extensive background and experience in both the agricultural and pharmaceutical industry, Thai Leaf's end-game is in pharmaceutical CBD products. This background is what distinguishes Thai leaf from other producers. It has the experience of the highest production standards and combines it with expertise and know-how from the US and Canada.

Mr. Traill is extremely positive about the growth of the industry in Thailand. The Thai CBD market is currently worth THB 7 billion, and forecasted to grow to THB 50 billion within the next three years. Thailand is the first country in the region to legalize hemp-derived CBD, and is in a unique and strong position to be a leader in the ASEAN region of 650 million potential consumers.

Currently, due to the ambiguous stage of the laws, there may be unstandardized products that do not possess the claimed qualities and may contain undesirable compounds. Thai Leaf calls for a benchmark of standardization and traceability, which all producers need to adhere to, so that the consumer is guaranteed with the highest quality of products.

The extraction and distillation of hemp biomass to produce high quality cannabinoids and CBD is an important step in providing fine quality products for the CBD industry. "There are simply no shortcuts to having good equipment and systems in place". Thai Leaf's final focus is pharmaceutical (medical) CBD. Therefore, it is essential that its factory is built to US GMP and European PIC/s standard (the highest standard for the medical industry) utilizing world-leading extraction, distillation and crystallization equipment from the US and Germany. Having Master Growers from the US and importing standard operation systems, also allows Thai Leaf to leverage decades of experience and know-how within its products.

To summarize, with the right regulations in place, standards will automatically rise for all manufacturers, making it possible for Thailand to become a hub and regional leader for Hemp-derived raw materials, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products, with high hopes that hemp becomes an economic crop for the Kingdom of Thailand.