BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network) - Thailand's ruling junta leader Prayut Chan-o-cha has tried to play down public concern about his government's plan to add occupation and salary details to national identification cards.
A public outcry has been growing since General Prayut revealed the plan on Saturday.
Many people have criticised the idea because of the potential for people to face discrimination on the basis of their financial status.
Prayut on Monday (Dec 14) denied that the initiative, which he expects to take effect by 2017, would divide people according to financial status, insisting that it would instead bring many benefits and also reduce tax evasion.
"When such information is included on ID cards, low-income people will enjoy better access to government assistance such as free bus rides, free train rides and free [MASS TRANSIT]rides," the Prime Minister said.
He also noted that it would be clear that low-income earners, such as those earning the Bt300 (S$11.72) minimum daily wage, would not have to pay tax.
The prime minister said the initiative, on the contrary, would ensure those who need to pay taxes do so. "It is going to tackle tax evasion and improve tax collection," he said.
Prayut also made it clear that the extra information would not be displayed prominently on the ID cards, but stored in a microchip.
Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda said the income information would be compiled, but not shown on ID cards.
"The government wants such information to help plan assistance for low-income people.
"We will study how this is implemented to ensure that it is not going to affect people's privacy in any way," he said.
Anupong said he had instructed the Interior Ministry's permanent secretary Grisada Boonrach to prepare necessary information so it is ready for implementation.
Meanwhile, the director of the Department of Provincial Administration's Registration Administration Bureau, Wichian Chidchanognarth, said ID cards could contain a lot of information.
He believed that when details from various authorities were linked via an ID-card database, people could access various public services just with their identity cards.