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August 17, 2015

Thailand: Important Amendments to the Counter-Corruption Act

The Thai government has recently amended the Organic Act on Counter-Corruption B.E. 2542 (1999) (Amendments). The Amendments, which became effective on July 12, 2015, are part of the government’s broader anti-corruption legislative and policy initiative. The Amendments join Thailand’s significant array of anti-corruption legislation and increase Thailand’s compliance with the UN Convention against Corruption, which Thailand ratified in 2011.

Introduction of Corporate Liability

The Amendments provide that a legal entity, such as a company, can be criminally liable for the bribery offenses of its employees, agents, and others acting on behalf of the company. Under the law, a company can now be guilty of a corrupt act if the actual bribe-giver is associated with the organization (e.g., an employee, agent, or subsidiary), has committed the act for the company’s benefit, and the company  failed to implement “proper internal measures” to prevent the bribe. The law does not state what internal measures would be acceptable to limit or exclude liability, although it is presumed that a robust compliance initiative would reduce the likelihood of liability. The company risks criminal liability even if the offender acted without the company’s authorization. The organization’s maximum punishment is twice the actual damage or amount of benefits obtained.

Coverage of Foreign State Officials and International Organization Workers

The Amendments also extend coverage of the anti-corruption law to foreign state officials and workers of international organizations. The acceptance of bribes by foreign state officials and international organization workers is penalized. Giving such bribes is also criminal. Notably, the law’s definition of “foreign state officials” includes officers of state enterprises. The penalties range from a prison sentence of 5 to 20 years, life imprisonment, death, and fines between THB 100,000 to THB 400,000.

Suspension of Prescription Periods

The Amendments also revise the time limitations in which a case can be brought for bribery offenses. When someone accused of violating the anti-corruption law leaves Thailand or goes into hiding, the prescription period will automatically stop. The period stops for the amount of time that the alleged offender is outside of Thailand and resumes when the person returns. With this revision, people accused of corruption-related offenses cannot simply “wait out” the prescription period, and then either re-enter Thailand or appear in public again.

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