Thailand's state fund for poor under probe for graft

BANGKOK • A Thai anti-corruption agency is investigating the suspected misappropriation of up to 85 per cent of money from a state fund for the poor.

The probe is the latest scandal to hit the military government, which has promised to clean up graft.

The Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday said it has found evidence of irregularities amounting to about 100 million baht (S$4.2 million).

Mr Korntip Daroj, secretary-general of the commission, said: "We have found that there are corrupt practices involving money destined for low-income people, which the state allocates every year. We have investigated and found corruption-related instances and evidence in about 49 out of 76 provinces."

The funds, which are given directly to those deemed in need in grants of up to 3,000 baht, are disbursed through the Social Development and Human Security Ministry. Reuters was unable to reach officials at the ministry for comment.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who heads the junta that seized power in a 2014 coup, said he has ordered the dismissal of all those involved in misappropriating the funds, and called for an investigation by the ministry.

He told reporters after a Cabinet meeting that the government has always been stringent about corruption. "I don't want you to think that it has become worse," he said.

The latest investigation comes as Mr Prayut's deputy and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan is under probe for failing to declare among his assets a collection of luxury watches.

That has partly fuelled recent protests, with people calling for an end to military rule. Elections are set for February next year, after repeated delays.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2018, with the headline 'Thailand's state fund for poor under probe for graft'. Print Edition | Subscribe