Almost 1,500 villages have turned down the grants under the state-funded Thai Niyom Yangyuen (Sustainable Thainess) programme, insisting they have no need for the money, according to a source at the Interior Ministry.
A total of 1,479 villages declined the government's offer of a grant worth at least 200,000 baht per village or community. Of these, 798 are villages or communities in provinces outside of Bangkok.
However, a village may get more than 200,000 baht if it has many project proposals.
The source said the grants were being distributed by the Department of Provincial Administration. The grants are financed by the budget approved for the microeconomic promotion and development strategy under which the Thai Niyom project to improve the quality of life for the grassroots sector is operated.
Altogether 80,754 villages or communities nationwide stand to benefit from the grants which will pay for a total of 91,384 development projects.
The source said most of the communities which rejected the funds said they had no plans for how they would spend the money and no one to supervise the spending.
In Phitsanulok, Yee Sae Yang, head of one of three highland villages in tambon Nam Jang which refused to take the state money, said the grant was useless as it would not cater to the residents' needs.
He explained the three villages were offered a combined 2.8 million baht. The bulk of the money was slated for training programmes and study tours, which the villages see no use for.
Residents recently met at a public hearing to discuss the grants and the majority of participants agreed to return the money to the government.
Mr Yee, head of Ban Nam Juang, said the grants are intended to shape up the communities' ability to deliver innovative tourism projects, and require the residents to go on study tours and join training sessions.
However, the three villages are not interested in tourism innovation as there are more urgent priorities to attend to, according to Mr Yee.
The headman said the villages were in need of projects that would deliver concrete results, such as a learning centre to educate people about the late King Bhumibol's development methods.
Also, he suggested the state fund should be disbursed to improve the condition of the roads leading to the area's tourist attractions. Better-paved roads would enable tourists to visit the area all year round. Mr Yee added the tourist attractions also lacked toilets.
Mr Yee said the residents wanted the government to take the money back and hand it to communities which rely on tourism more than they do.
"As long as the roads are in bad shape, the training or study tours would be no help to the villages. [The government] should look at [the objectives of] the grants again," the village headman said.
The three villages have a combined population of about 4,000. They are the Ban Nam Juang, Ban Nam Kub and Ban Nam Juang Tai in Chat Trakan district. Most of the residents there are Hmong ethnic highlanders.