Coronavirus aid rejectees raise ruckus at ministry

Coronavirus aid rejectees raise ruckus at ministry

Finance permanent secretary Prasong Poonthanet (right) makes a point to people who gathered at the Finance Ministry on TUesday to appeal its decision to reject their claims for a 5,000-baht cash handout. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Finance permanent secretary Prasong Poonthanet (right) makes a point to people who gathered at the Finance Ministry on TUesday to appeal its decision to reject their claims for a 5,000-baht cash handout. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

Dozens of people who on Tuesday turned up at the Finance Ministry to appeal its decision to reject their claims for a 5,000-baht cash handout to help tide them over the Covid-19 crisis have now threatened to rally at Government House.

They said if they do not get the money this time or their applications for the financial aid are turned down again, they will converge on Government House. However, they have not scheduled the protest date yet.

Another group of people went to the Finance Ministry to appeal the ministry's decision yesterday afternoon but no officials met them, making the situation at the ministry more chaotic.

One person in the group said she makes a living selling flowers and that all the applications of her family members were turned down.

"If I do not receive the money, I will set myself on fire at Government House in protest," she said.

Another woman angrily threatened to strip as a form of protest while another wept in despair.

The applicants yesterday morning gathered at the ministry upon hearing that a complaint centre was being set up to receive grievances from registrants whose claims had been rejected.

They were greeted with an announcement that they can lodge appeals on the website www.เราไม่ทิ้งกัน.com ["You will never be left behind"] next week or contact the call centre.

Frustrated, the group demanded to see Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana at his office and a tense stand-off ensued between the applicants and security guards.

Prasong Poonthanet, the finance permanent secretary, and Lavaron Sangsnit, director of the Fiscal Policy Office, met with the group and assured them they would be able to lodge appeals.

Several of the applicants said they had received a text message informing them that they were not eligible to get the financial aid because they were farmers or entrepreneurs.

But the petitioners insisted they were small-time vendors whose businesses had been affected by the government's closure order to contain Covid-19. They said they were clueless as to how they ended up being wrongly classified as farmers or entrepreneurs.

The government said it used artificial intelligence technology to screen the applicants before granting the aid money. It has been reported that some applicants who are not familiar with the online system had their family members or relatives register for them, which might have resulted in wrong information being logged.

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