BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A Thai academic has called on the country's richest people to urge Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to scrap weapons purchases and tackle corruption as well as wasteful projects so that the money can be used to help those affected by Covid-19.
Mr Anusorn Tamajai, director at Rangsit University's Economic and Business Research Centre, wrote an open letter on Sunday (April 19) to the 20 richest Thais, in an apparent reference to Mr Prayut's appeal for help from the country's wealthy in an address on national television last Friday.
Mr Prayut had said that he would write an open letter to the country's rich this week, asking them for their contributions as part of efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.
But his address drew harsh criticism from netizens, with the hashtag #beggar government trending on Twitter on Friday after Mr Prayut went on television.
Mr Anusorn said in his letter he wanted the richest people, if they had a chance to meet Mr Prayut, to tell him that he should act in his capacity as both Prime Minister and the Defence Minister to cut weapons spending for the next three to five years.
He said if Mr Prayut did so, he could save as much as 100 billion baht (S$4.4 billion) to 200 billion baht, which could be reallocated to help people and small businesses affected by Covid-19.
The government can save between 300 billion baht to 400 billion baht a year if it could get rid of corruption and cut spending on unproductive projects, he added.
He said the tycoons should tell the prime minister to also review the country's State of Emergency as many places such as South Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand and Denmark have not declared emergencies but have managed to contain the virus outbreak.
Mr Anusorn said to reassure the public about the coronavirus fight, the government should also conduct mass testing in some parts of the country as many other countries do, so they do not need to shut down Thai cities.
He suggested that the tycoons should donate to support the government if it could not afford to conduct mass testing due to its limited financial resources.
Despite, the number of new cases falling to around 30 over the past several days, many people are unhappy with the country's lockdown restrictions, which have resulted in workers being laid off and businesses shutting down. Some who did not get cash handouts after they had registered on the government website, joined a protest at the Finance Ministry last Tuesday demanding cash handouts.