Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Corruption and history of the Thai ID cards

Corruption and history of the Thai ID cards

Here's an interesting article from today's The Nation which covers the current corruption in developing a new Thai ID card and it's history.

After eight years of delay and the outlay of billions of baht, the "Smart Card" project to provide all Thais with a modern ID card has become bogged down in a corruption-plagued scandal.
The project was started by the Thaksin Shinawatra government in 2004, but no investigation has ever been ordered into why Bt7.91 billion was approved for 64 million identity cards for all Thais, which were wracked with problems and divided into three lots over the past five to six years.

Only the first 12 million cards were issued completely in the first lot in 2004, after Bt888 million out of a total Bt1.67 billion was approved. These cards cost Bt74 apiece after two other bid lots were abolished following allegations of corruption.

No details are immediately available as to where the remaining half of this initial government outlay has gone.

Of a total of 26 million cards sought in the second lot at a bidding price of Bt962 million, half were awarded to IRC HST Joint Venture for Bt486.8 million, or Bt37.45 apiece. However, a complaint was lodged with the ICT Ministry, which later aborted the bid, and reopened it in 2007.

The 2007 auction sought a full 26 million cards, and ended in a Bt920-million deal awarded to VSK Joint Venture in July that year, which priced the cards at Bt35 apiece.

Of these Thai ID cards, I know the last 3 versions, not including the smart card

Bidding for a third lot - 26 million cards -was opened in June 2009. VK Joint Venture won the Bt902-million contract, which required new conditions set up by the Department of Provincial Administration (DOPA). These included new designs and harder-to-crack anti-forgery features.

The third-lot cards, called IE model, were embedded with IC Chip NXP (Model P5CD080), which offers 80kb of memory. That was greater than that issued in first and second lots. This version also featured a Card Operating System - Model JCOP V 2.4.1, which complied with Global Platform version 2.1.1 requirements.

Five days after Cabinet approved the deal, on December 11 last year, then DOPA director-general Wongsak Sawasdiphanich received an Interior Ministry document asking DOPA to reconsider the contract it had just awarded.

Wongsak set up two panels to study the ministry directive. They concluded that the project should proceed further with the IE model - or for the current "partly-smart" version to be dusted off. But the vote by both panels to use a "non-smart" version was not unanimous.

On March 9 this year, the ICT ministry questioned the DOPA decision and asked for it to re-approve the IE model.

DOPA later backtracked and approved the IE model. But all agencies never explained their decisions or the reasons for their about-turns.

The inaction of all agencies involved over the issue means that anyone applying for ID cards is given a "yellow paper" permit as a temporary substitute for actual cards, like in the old days when the normal procedure for issuing an ID card took 15 days.

People seeking to obtain ID cards are not even issued the third-generation "non-smart" cards, because district officers are not sure what cards they should issue if people apply for a new card or seek to renew one that has expired.

After DOPA approved the IE model, the ICT Ministry handed 600,000 cards to the department. But days after receiving the first million cards from the ministry, DOPA rejected them all on June 14. It said the IE model violated two conditions - the front of the cards has red microtext laid across it, and the back of the card does not feature the map of Thailand.

This type of technical problem occurred previously when DOPA rejected the first six million cards many years ago - because they could not be used by the department's computer. The problem ended when Thaksin ordered DOPA to accept all cards.

It remains to be seen how the problem will be tackled this time. It may eventually be dealt with by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who needs to resolve problems between the Interior Ministry and the ICT Ministry.


Martyn said...

Camille thanks for the history behind Thai ID cards. There appears to be a lot of money unaccounted for with each lot transaction. Same old Thailand again. The country is riddled with corruption and doesn't seem likely to shake it off. The present PM would seem the ideal person to tackle corruption but you could argue he got there (as PM) by those means himself.

Holland 3 Uruguay 1....two minutes to go.

Camille said...

Hi Martyn,

Glad you liked the article. I found it an interesting one, hence the post ;-)

The semis are over, finals, here we come!

Mike said...

Camille, very interesting. I have often wondered about Thai ID since I know Duen does not have a modern one.

That said they also have the ID book too.

We had a similar scandal in the UK and I think the new government is going to drop the ID card idea.

Personally I quite like them given that its a useful form of ID if you need too prove who you are.

Camille said...

Hi Mike,

Just before I moved to Thailand, the Netherlands introduced an ID card, of which I have one. That one must be very outdated by now!

What I like about the current Thai ID card is that everything is also in English on it, name etc.

Mike said...

Camille, its the same with the new photo card driving licences, which is quite handy.

Camille said...

That's true Mike, almost forgot about them!