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Bank governor convinced that power corrupts

The incumbent governor of the Bank of Thailand has clearly taken the experience of his two immediate predecessors to heart. Troubled by one’s profligacy with the kingdom’s foreign currency reserves he would like his own powers curbed. However, he may also be concerned about the other’s dismissal after a dispute with the prime minister about interest rates and is keen to assert the independence of the central bank

Pridiyathorn Devakula:
'Only a guilty conscience can stop me.
That's not healthy.'

PRIDIYATHORN DEVAKULA HAS an important ambition. He wants the law changed to curb his own powers. He leans forward and explains animatedly: "I am so powerful. I look at the law and I can do anything. Only a guilty conscience can stop me. That's not healthy."

Anything? Such as what? Sack all the staff? Steal all the money? He continues: "I can bet with my reserves any time. Nobody can stop me. They can fire me, but sometimes firing is too late. I hate a situation where one man is so powerful that nobody can stop him."

Pridiyathorn is the governor of the Bank of Thailand, whose reserves fell almost as low as $2 billion in the panic to prop up the baht during the 1997 financial crisis. The Thai authorities have launched a suit against the then central bank governor, Remgchai Marakanond, that accuses him of reckless use of the reserves to try to protect the currency.

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