By The Nation
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER General Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday returned 1,534 land title deeds worth Bt3 billion to 1,358 Northeast residents who had fallen victim to loan sharks, in a ceremony held in Kalasin.
Similar events held simultaneously in other parts of the country saw the handing over of 3,285 land deeds to 4,236 rightful owners, along with other assets including 121 cars and 504 motorcycles. The total value of the assets returned to in the ceremonies was Bt4 billion.
The event in Kalasin was the largest in terms of debtors and land value as it covered people from 12 Northeast provinces.
A provincial committee that includes police officers has been retrieving land deeds through negotiations with high-interest lenders and helping set up easier repayment schemes.
At the event yesterday, Prawit, who oversees the police, said the authorities would continue to crackdown on illicit moneylenders to end inequality and “return happiness to the people”.
He said the government was also working on giving low-income people access to legal loans and legalising the money-lending business. The government has been promoting “pico-finance” (micro-loans) to address the country’s underground debt problems.
The debtors expressed gratitude at getting their property back. The assets of some had been seized by the lenders for nearly 30 years, after they had failed to keep up with loan repayments.
Jenjira Jongreucha, who got back the title deed for her one-rai plot after four years, tearfully said this was the first government to do this for the people. “I never thought this day would come, when I could get my land back so easily,” she said.
Last month, Prawit presented 780 title deeds worth Bt1.8 billion in total and covering 3,700 rai (592 hectares) to 684 loan-shark victims in the Northeast, in an event held in Udon Thani’s Muang district.
In July, police negotiated with loan sharks and retrieved title deeds covering 285 rai of land worth Bt130 million to hand back to 135 debtors in Khon Kaen province. This success led Prawit to extend the police aid to more victims, many of whom are poor farmers in the Northeast.
According to Deputy Tourist Police chief Maj-General Surachate Hakpan, since July some 8,000 informal debtors nationwide have had assets worth a total of Bt18 billion returned to them, including 7,000 title deeds.