Fundraising kicks up stink

Fundraising kicks up stink

'Sean' row sparks donation law change


The Interior Ministry is working to amend a law to safeguard public donations after a donation campaign led by a social media celebrity was called into question.

Deputy Interior Minister Niphon Bunyamanee said on Tuesday an amendment to the 1944 Donations Control Act was being drafted by the Department Of Provincial Administration.

The law needs updating to keep up with fund-raising practices which have shifted online and to prevent any abuse of public donations, according to the deputy minister.

His comment came after social media influencer Sean Buranahiran was reportedly summoned to clarify donations he raised to help Chiang Mai province fight wildfires earlier this year.

Sean, also a motivational speaker, found himself in hot water after he spoke in a video clip during a tree planting event in Chiang Mai on May 21 praising Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon's personality.

His remark sparked fury among government opponents and critics on social media, followed by calls for an investigation into Sean's fundraising.

Activist Srisuwan Janya said earlier that the 870,741.50 baht raised by Sean had been used for the Covid-19 pandemic, not the Chiang Mai wildfires. He charged that over 250,000 of the money had allegedly been spent on media productions for personal benefit.

According to Muang district office in Chiang Mai, Sean did not seek permission to publicly mobilise funds in the district under the 1944 act. The office said donors can call for Sean's prosecution if they think he spent the donations improperly.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday denied the government hired Sean to carry out a public relations drive for Gen Prawit.

Gen Prawit also dismissed the allegation Sean had been roped in to spruce up his image during the tree-planting event. He explained the event was organised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and that no one was paid to ramp up any publicity.

Jatuporn Buruspat, the natural resources and environment permanent secretary, said he had checked with the Royal Forest Department which confirmed it did not hire Sean to appear at the event.

He suspected Sean had volunteered to take part in the event. Mr Jatuporn added the ministry had sufficient funds and did not need to ask for public donations to fight the bushfires.

Varawut Silpa-archa, the natural resources and environment minister, said the ministry had no policy to solicit public donations to assist its officials in combating bushfires.

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