New Pension Rule: Stumbling Block for New Government?

Due to a lack of government assistance, many Thai seniors continue to struggle to earn a living. (Khaosod photo / Yokin Charoenying)

The Thai Ministry of Interior’s adjustment to pension payments for the elderly has drawn widespread criticism and political debate. Various political parties, including potential leading parties such as Pheu Thai Party and potential opposition parties such as Move Forward Party and the Democratic Party, disagree with the new policy.

Some see the new regulation as a blockade for the upcoming new government.

The new rules change the criteria for receiving retirement pensions. Instead of all eligible persons, payments will now be made to “persons with no income or insufficient income for subsistence as determined by the National Commission for the Elderly in accordance with the relevant law”. The caretaker government argued that this change is aimed at saving about 90 billion baht annually.

The new rules change the criteria for receiving a pension after retirement, as announced in the Government Gazette.

Several networks, such as “Slum Network 4 Regions,” “People’s Network for Welfare State,” and “We Fair,” have spoken out against the new regulations. They state that if the government cuts the budget and restricts payments only to low-income elderly who hold a government welfare card, about 5 million people, over 6 million elderly who currently receive pensions, would lose their entitlement.

“Everyone who pays taxes should be entitled to the pension, regardless of their wealth. They can advocate that the wealthy give up the right, but the right should belong to everyone first. Currently, only 40 families in the country have about 30 percent of the GDP. This is an important issue that the Ministry of Finance should take care of. We believe that the wealthy will be willing to give up their rights,” announced the public networks.

Civil society organisations submitted a letter to the Minister of Finance to express their opposition to the reduction in pension payments.

After heavy criticism, General Anupong Paochinda, the Minister of the Interior, clarified on August 15 that the new regulations were the result of a proposal by the National Elderly Commission and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to the Office of the Council of State on whether the current regulations were consistent with the Constitution. The result was that it was not consistent with the Constitution, which resulted in the need for a revised decree in accordance with the Constitution.

However, local governments are continuing the current payment system for both current recipients and those who turn 60. This decision has yet to be reviewed by the National Commission for the Elderly and will be included in the new government’s plans, given the large budget involved.

General Anupong Paochinda

Acting Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha responded to the criticism by saying that some people may not fully understand the situation. He stressed that those who currently receive pensions will continue to do so and that the changes are about securing the future budgetary situation under the new government.

“What we are doing is necessary because the elderly population is growing continuously. While some can take care of themselves, others cannot. It’s truly about sharing and caring, and we shouldn’t listen to those who have never been in government making such statements,” said Prayut.

Sorn Ngamsaprang, 72, said he receives 700 baht for old age pension and 800 baht for disabled and blind people, for a total of 1,500 baht each salary. It’s very important to him.

Thailand has been transitioning into an ageing society since 2005. In 2023, the population over the age of 60 will be 12,698,362 people, accounting for 19.21% of the overall population of 66,090,475 people. There are approximately 12 million elderly individuals, comprising 5.6 million men and 7.07 million women, with the 60–69 age group accounting for over half of the total.

At present, the elderly are paid between 600 and 1,000 baht per month, depending on their age. Those aged 60–69 receive 600 baht; 70–79, 700 baht; 80–89, 800 baht; and those over 90 get 1,000 baht.

A vendor in the Khon Kaen municipal market expressed worry about the adjustment of the old age allowance.