Prawit keen to continue loan-shark purge

Prawit keen to continue loan-shark purge

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon is surrounded by Lop Buri residents during a ceremony to present them with land title deeds. (Photo by Wassana Nanuam)
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon is surrounded by Lop Buri residents during a ceremony to present them with land title deeds. (Photo by Wassana Nanuam)

LOP BURI: Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon says he will carry on cracking down on illegal loan-sharking if he stays on in the next government.

Gen Prawit, who also serves as defence minister, said ongoing efforts to tackle loan-sharking will remain a priority of the next government.

During the present administration he has overseen a joint operation to crack down on loan sharks who charge much higher interest rates than the law allows, and help debtors negotiate with informal lenders regarding settling debts.

"Personally, I don't know if I will stay on. If I do, I will carry on with it," Gen Prawit said.

He was speaking at a ceremony in Lop Buri in which 1,704 land title deeds worth more than 2.3 billion baht were returned to local residents who used them as collateral to borrow from loan sharks.

So far, the government has handed back a total of 21,312 land title deeds covering 59,000 rai, and worth 30.6 billion baht to debtors nationwide, Gen Prawit said.

"When you get them back, keep them safe for your children. Don't ever use them as collateral again. When this government steps down, there is no knowing who will help you again," Gen Prawit said.

Gen Prawit was last week criticised by deputy Democrat Party leader, Nipit Intarasombat, who posted comments on his Facebook page which alleged the government's assistance to loan-shark victims was "faked"

He pointed to police mediation efforts between loan sharks and their debtors, which were touted as a resounding success after many land title deeds were returned.

In the post, Mr Nipit, wrote that he doubted the authenticity of the title deeds returned "by a deputy prime minister" to scores of local residents in ceremonies in a number of provinces.

It was an apparent dig at Gen Prawit, who has attended a number of ceremonies wherein he has returned title deeds to loan-shark victims.

Mr Nipit also speculated that some police officers may have set up these events to please "a senior figure in exchange for promotions".

Gen Prawit has since said that Mr Nipit must take responsibility for the comments.

Defence Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich said yesterday that this month, authorities have helped 42,097 people settle debts worth more than 7.1 billion baht with moneylenders.

The joint operation involves the Internal Security Operations Command, the police, as well as the Interior, Justice, Finance and Agriculture ministries.

Loan sharks are considered a major problem, especially in the Northeast and the South.

As well as charging high interest rates, these lenders also make vast profits from seizing property that borrowers have placed as collateral.

Residents in these regions prefer to deal with loan sharks rather than commercial banks because of accessibility and convenience.

The government relaunched a campaign to crackdown on loan sharks in May last year. It stepped up a gear after Gen Prawit ordered police, soldiers and local authorities to intensify the crackdown.

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