B5,000 cheats media hungry, official claims

B5,000 cheats media hungry, official claims

Finance permanent secretary Prasong Poontaneat said he was worried that "some" people who are now gathering in front of the Finance Ministry to demand 5,000 baht per month in aid are not really in need and may even be exploiting the media exposure and people's goodwill.

"The Finance Ministry has been working hard to help affected people. But some people have made us worried," Mr Prasong told the media yesterday.

He accused several people of fabricating hardship to drum up compassion and raise money.

"Some went to the ministry without being in need just to get media attention. I do not want the media to be a tool for these people," Mr Prasong said.

More than a thousand people have been gathered in front of the Finance Ministry since last week, with one 59-year-old woman grabbing headlines after she swallowed rat poison in desperation.

After the failed attempt suicide, the ministry found the woman was entitled to the 5,000 baht in aid and transferred the money.

That prompted more people to descend on the ministry to protest, likewise demanding money be sent their way.

The commotion resulted from failures in the Finance Ministry's registration system for the aid scheme, with many people later complaining they had not received money or encountered other problems with the "non-user-friendly" system.

In order to enforce social distancing, the ministry had at first been adamant it would not open its doors to petitioners, but later was forced to cave in to mounting pressure after the widely publicised suicide attempt.

While admitting that some people have clearly been affected by the crisis, Mr Prasong accused others of belonging to political camps including the "red shirts" who have ulterior motives.

He also said some were merely seeking media attention.

"They complained about their grievances and the media ran their stories and [gave] their bank account numbers for people to transfer money to, said Mr Prasong, warning the media not to be used by ill-intentioned people looking to "exploit public sympathy".

In terms of public health, authorities have expressed concerns that mass gatherings in front of the Finance Ministry on Rama VI Road could lead to Covid-19 transmission.

"It is impossible for officials to regulate proper social distancing. All officials can do is check on 5,000-baht payments from mobile phones. Indeed, people can check the status of their money transfers from their own mobile phones, and they don't need to come to the Finance Ministry," he said.

Asked whether the ministry would extend the financial aid scheme by another three months, Mr Prasong said it would depend on how well the authorities managed the Covid-19 crisis in the months ahead.

But he warned the government has already taken on massive debts after borrowing 1.1 trillion baht to give to those people adversely affected by the situation.

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