The government has declared a crackdown on illegal loans and loan sharks as a national priority.
Describing these illicit lending practices as "modern-day slavery", Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin emphasised the urgent need to eliminate such activities to restore normalcy and social order.
"Addressing illegal loans has become a national priority. This policy isn't about the government's or my image. It's about alleviating people's hardships and returning their smiles and sense of security. People must be able to live without fear," said Mr Srettha.
The prime minister announced the policy on Friday. The government has opened avenues for affected debtors to file petitions through the Damrongtham Centre hotline at 1567 or by visiting their local district offices until Feb 29. As of yesterday, 75,199 people had signed up for the scheme, with at least 3.82 billion baht of debt needing to be settled.
Additionally, the Royal Thai Police (RTP) has set up a suppression centre for the issue on its 1599 hotline to receive complaints about loan sharks, as well as the Office of the Prime Minister's 1111 hotline.
The complaints will be collected before they are transferred to related agencies. Police and prosecutors can arrest those in question immediately after the complaint is received, according to Mr Srettha.
The state will also provide mediation between debtors and loaners with a provision for reconciliation. A settlement written between both parties is expected after the negotiations conclude.
The agreement must follow a system set by the Interior Ministry and include the most suitable debt clearing for each debtor, including interest rate, instalments, and instalment period, said Mr Srettha.
After this, the Office of the Prime Minister will keep track of the results. More negotiations will be arranged if the parties see no success. A lawsuit will be needed if any predatory lending has been reported afterwards, said Mr. Srettha.
Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul warned lenders not to obstruct their debtors from registering.
Responding to reports of vandalism related to the scheme, Mr Anutin said such actions would not improve the situation but rather exacerbate the legal repercussions against those engaging in illegal lending practices.