How Low Can You Go – Financial Aid Earmarked for Extreme Poor Embezzled by Thai Officials

How Low Can You Go – Financial Aid Earmarked for Extreme Poor Embezzled by Thai Officials
Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commissioner Jaramporn Suramanee (standing left) listens to an elderly villager during the investigation into the embezzlement of financial aid. – Photo Supapong Chaolan

BUENG KAN – Korntip Daroj, acting secretary-general of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), has reported that embezzlement of financial aid intended for the destitute has been uncovered as graft busters expand their investigation in rural provinces, and the corruption appears to be well organized.

He said checks on a protection centre for the poor in Ban Tha Sa-ard village of Seka district in Bueng Kan province found that most of the people recorded as aid recipients did not even know they were on the list.

He quoted villagers as saying they had filed copies of their ID cards to register for local career training, and had no idea their documents were abused for purposes of embezzling funds.

“There were skillfully written signatures of elderly people who actually cannot write. There is a list of 36 recipients, but only four of them actually receive the 3,000 baht each,” Lt Col Korntip said, referring to the monthly payment due to registered poor.

He said about 2,400 destitute people were officially entitled to the financial assistance in Bung Kan. They were poor or HIV-infected people. Most HIV patients received the aid.

The same fraudulent practices had been uncovered at local welfare centres elsewhere in the Northeast, Lt Col Korntip said.

There was evidence of the same corruption in Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai, Bung Kan, Nong Khai and Surat Thani provinces. Evidence was still being gathered in many more provinces in the various regions.

PACC member Pol Gen Jaramporn Suramanee said in Surat Thani on Monday that destitute people had been ordered to sign empty pieces of paper to show they received financial aid. Some received some of the money, and others received nothing, he said.

Each case of fraud involved 3-5 culprits, and the method of embezzlement was the same when it came to paperwork, document filing and distribution of money, he said.

“The PACC will find out from the evidence if this involves any senior executive at the Ministry (of Social Development and Human Security). At the least, it is obvious that such wrongful conduct damages the national welfare system,” Pol Gen Jaramporn said.

Those responsible faced criminal and disciplinary charges relating to malfeasance, embezzlement, document forgery and confirmation of forged documents, he said.

The scandal came to light after Panida Yotpanya, 22, a social science student at Maha Sarakham University, and three friends working as interns at the Khon Kaen Protection Centre for the Destitute lodged a complaint with the National Council for Peace and Order.

The students, who attended job training there last year, said they were ordered by the centre’s director and senior officials to fill in forms and sign receipts for 2,000 villagers, for payments worth nearly 7 million baht.

By King-Oua Laohong and Supapong Chaolan
Bangkok Post

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