Up to 100 annoyed and infuriated taxi drivers and traders were handled by patient security guards until they were met at the minister’s office by top officials including the Head of the Fiscal Policy Office Lavaron Sangsnit. 

Up to 100 irate Thai self-employed people made a beeline for the minister’s office at the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday morning when they came to protest at the handling of their applications for financial assistance under the government’s support scheme during the Covid 19 emergency.

Video screenshots from the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday morning as a crowd of up to 100 people made their presence felt over online issues holding up Covid 19 supports payments for the informal sector or self-employed. One trader (inset to right) told the TV crews that he was told he was registered as a farmer when he was in business for himself in Bangkok selling T-Shirts. The furore was eased when senior Finance Ministry officials Prasong Poontaneat and Lavaron Sangsnit (inset top) addressed and assuaged the crowd’s concerns about the scheme.

Top officials of the Ministry of Finance came face to face on Tuesday with incensed members of the country’s huge informal economy over delays in payments connected with the country’s monthly payments support scheme for the sector.

Despite announcements from the Minister of Finance over the last 24 hours that claimants could appeal the decisions or rejections for the cash, a group of approximately 100 people turned up personally on Tuesday morning at the Ministry of Finance on Rama 6 road in the Phayathai district of Bangkok.

Crowd was visibly upset and irate

The crowd were visibly angry and frustrated. They cited a range of pernickety problems such as the wrong address or the incorrect variant of surnames or forenames. One woman explained that she was told initially that her bank account details were wrong only to be told after resubmitting it, that there was another problem with her address.

Such registration and database issues are problems that occur regularly with large systems but the difference in this instance is that after over two weeks of an economic shutdown, many are quite desperate to access the cash support.

Up to 25 million people registered for these supports initially. For many, it was the first time interacting with the government for economic support or even online. It is not clear who government agencies cross-referenced the application with its existing databases for taxation and the national identity card.

Resilient Thai workforce taxed to the limit by the unique nature of the Covid 19 emergency

Throughout Thailand, there are growing reports of people adapting to make ends meet including taking up new jobs, borrowing money from a variety of pawn shops or seeking food from local charities or initiatives. 

Many Thais keep gold as a personal financial reserve. In the past few days, there have been reports of gold shops running low on cash but able to make a handsome profit as more sellers than buyers flock to their doors to do business. The price of gold is still rising, however.

It has prompted queues outside gold shops where they are open. On Tuesday, the Chairman of the Thai Gold Traders Associations, Jitti Tangsitpakdee, warned that many shops may be facing liquidity problems. He urged people to be patient.

‘If this continues for a week, most gold shops will have to shut down temporarily. But it will have a great effect on many players in the gold industry,’ the industry leader warned.

The crisis is severely taxing the uncommon resilience and flexibility of the Thai workforce and those who work in the informal economy. Many are already at their financial limits. The sale of gold for many is an option of last resort.

Social distancing has taken the heart out of Thailand’s informal trade and services sector

The social distancing element of the measures introduced and the closure of non-essential services has cut the heart out of the innate ability of Thai people in its huge informal sector, to trade and provide services for profit to the community at large.

One man at the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday, a T-Shirt seller, complained that he was told by the ministry that he was registered as a farmer when in fact he was a trader working in Bangkok.

Notice at the Ministry warned that issues with the scheme must be dealt with online

On Tuesday, when the crowd arrived at the ministry, they were met with notices suggesting that their grievances could not be dealt with in person.

They were asked to resubmit their information online or to use the newly announced appeal process to rectify any problems.

However, this appeared to vex the group who turned up further and they insisted on visiting the office of the Thai Minister of Finance, Mr Uttama Savanayon.

Went straight for the minister’s office

Inside the office of the minister, the group voiced their displeasure to security personnel and onlookers within the government building. It is thought that the crowd included several Thai taxi drivers and traders at the vanguard of the protest.

One extremely agitated man, who appeared to be a taxi driver, told security officers that it was impossible for him to be patient after being asked by the guards to calm down. 

He tried a number of times to lead the irate group past the security force who politely shielded access to the doors passed the hallway denying the group further access to the lifts and inner sanctums of the building.

Eventually meet and assuaged by top officials

The group was finally met at the front of the concourse by the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Finance, Prasong Poontaneat and the Head of the Fiscal Policy Office, Lavaron Sangsnit, who is responsible for the roll-out and administration of the financial support scheme.

The group explained their grievances to the officials and the situation was brought under control.

Further reading:

Government begins looking at borrowing options to fund huge ฿1.9 trillion economy rescue package

Challenge of defeating both a health and economic emergency a big ask for Thailand’s government in crisis mode

Thailand faces a third shock after the virus if high debt and the informal economy are not prioritised

Economist warns economy needs ‘blanket’ fiscal support and a ‘big problem’ if the virus effect persists

Huge demand for emergency supports with over 20 million to apply for self employed payments

Leaders in Thailand and across the world fighting a historic threat to the public and the economy – a virus

Thai government responds with targeted stimulus plans to help the economy through the virus crisis

Bank of Thailand says it has more scope as the economy is left reeling from biting coronavirus setback

No limit on borrowing as Somkid plots the biggest stimulus package yet to address the virus crisis