Thursday, July 18, 2019

Generals on the campaign trail?

Aug 26. 2018
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AS THE GENERAL election draws near, the government of General Prayut Chan-o-cha has become increasingly busier with projects seemingly aimed at winning the hearts of voters at the grassroots.

Senior government figures, including Prayut and Deputy Premier General Prawit Wongsuwan, have recently visited different areas of the country to kick off state-sponsored projects.

Those projects mainly are intended to benefit groups such as farmers, low-income people and rural residents.

The Cabinet on August 7 approved a three-year moratorium on farmers’ debts, continuing through July 2021. It covers debts owed to the state-run Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC).

A budget of Bt2.7 billion was approved for debt-interest compensation to the BAAC due to the suspension of debt repayments.

General Prawit, who is also Defence minister, recently visited northeastern Khon Kaen and Udon Thani provinces to follow up on the government’s commitment to stem the illegal lending of money at high interest rates.

In Khon Kaen, Prawit returned land deeds worth Bt120 million to 135 people whose documents had been dishonestly seized by loan sharks. In Udon Thani, he returned land deeds to another 1,778 residents from different provinces in the region. 

Altogether, land deeds and other assets such as vehicles were returned to 2,287 people throughout the country who were victims of loan sharks. The properties are worth collectively more than Bt3 billion.

At the Cabinet meeting on August 21, Prawit reported that 209,538 people had benefited from the project to help loan-shark victims. The Cabinet is also set to consider restructuring debt that farmers have owed to the BAAC since 2000. This project involves combined debt topping Bt6 billion and interest of Bt4 billion.

And the government has made it a policy to hand out money to needy people every month. In the second phase of this undertaking this year, monthly handouts increased from Bt300 to Bt500 for individuals earning less than Bt30,000 a year and from Bt200 to Bt300 for people on annual incomes of less than Bt100,000.

The Cabinet also gave the green light to an Interior Ministry scheme to help boost the rural economy by injecting Bt200,000 each into more than 82,000 communities throughout the country. There is also a Bt40-billion project to offer cheap loans to homebuyers on low incomes. 

After starting their jobs last week, new members of the Election Commission said the general election would be held sometime between late February and early May.

That gives the post-coup government less than a year before the vote, and meanwhile observers see the junta attempting to retain power through General Prayut’s return as government chief after the election. 

Prayut recently claimed to have the backing of many political parties to stay in politics, but said he had not yet made a decision to join any party. The junta leader said he would make his political future clear publicly next month.


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