Those who expect the government and financial regulatory bodies to have quick and strong safeguards to protect wide-eyed investors from Ponzi schemes and hustlers: prepare for a letdown. The latest tit-for-tat this week among the ministries responsible suggests that people will have to wait for a solution, or simply just safeguard themselves.
The tit-for-tat started on Sunday when the Minister for Digital Economy and Society, Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, told the media that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is failing to adequately monitor firms offering new investment schemes and that this lack of oversight has led to billions of baht in losses, he said.
"In my opinion, the SEC didn't do its job properly, allowing [fraudulent] firms to be founded, which, in turn, caused losses of over 10 billion baht," Mr Chaiwut told reporters yesterday. The DES minister is known for his blunt remarks and interloping. Last year he even pressured the public health minister to legalise e-cigarettes.
Despite the latest Ponzi schemes -- including Forex-3D and other scams -- being conducted mostly online, the DES minister said he does not have the authority to block websites or individual accounts without a request from other agencies, which must be backed by evidence.
The DES needs to review the Computer Act to empower the ministry to shut down such websites. He does not know how long such an amendment to the act would take.
The following day, the soft-spoken Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith suddenly came out to defend the SEC by saying the case is not under the SEC's authority. The SEC explained that it has no power to supervise the foreign exchange sector.
Mr Arkhom then asked the SEC and the Bank of Thailand (BoT) to "examine any legal loopholes" to prevent recurring cases of foreign exchange Ponzi schemes and said the ministry is "revising regulations" to improve its supervisory capacity.
Like the DES minister, Mr Arkhom too could not tell us how long "revising regulations" will take.
It seems the government does not have safeguards to handle online financial fraud. The buck passing speaks volumes about responsible bodies hardly working with one another. This lack of oversight is not only upsetting but inexcusable.
Ponzi schemes like Forex-3D are nothing new to Thai society, and this will not be the last of them.
Since the notorious Share Mae Chamoy scam run by the infamous Chamoy Thipyaso in the mid-1980s, there have been 2,500 Ponzi schemes recorded by the government, with about 38,000 victims and a total financial loss of 390 billion baht.
These swindles should not be perceived as losses from risky investments. Financial scams like these have worsened poverty as well as our economy.
Despite this, in the past four decades, the government has done too little to create safeguards to protect consumers. There has been no systematic and strong red flagging system to alert relevant bodies.
Perhaps not enough people have said loudly enough what the finance ministry, DES, SEC, BoT or even the Department of Special Investigation have known for a few years, that Forex-3D is illegal.
For years, they have let these fraudsters and entertainers operate with impunity as they swindled endless investors online. In failing to protect the people, our government has unfortunately become part of the problem, not the solution.