Joint Agencies Efforts To Tackle Extra-Legal Debts

Suspected loan sharks under arrest in Songkhla province, 16 May 2013

(17 March) Officials from various state agencies have vowed to take part in a joint effort to curb the widespread problem of predatory lending and unofficial debts across the nation.

The initial stage of the operation is to set up committees to settle disputes between the debtors and the external money lenders, said Mr. Somchai Satchapong, director of the Fiscal Policy Office (FPC).

The committees will be overseen jointly by representatives of the Attorney-General Office, the Revenue Department, the Royal Thai Police, and other related authorities, according to Mr. Somchai.

In another phrase of the solution, Mr. Somchai, is to consult local financial establishments in over 70,000 communities across Thailand and state-owned banks in order to seek a well-balanced advice concerning the issue.

Mr. Somchai said he expected full cooperation and a swift response from the banks, such as the opening of additional counters specifically to deal with extra-legal loans in all bank branches, since tackling the deeply-rooted problems of predatory loans will be an indicator of the banks' competence. 

Apart from the joint committees and coordination between the banks and the local communities, Mr. Somchai told our correspondent, the Department of Social Development and Human Security and some of the private sector will be asked to provide job training and information about predatory loans to local residents, in order to stamp the problem out.

Furthermore, Mr. Somchai explained that officials will attempt to construct a database of the underground loan business in all provinces of Thailand – an ambitious task which might take 3-4 years to complete.

According to the information available, 124,000 citizens have applied for help from the authorities concerning their unofficial debts between 2011-2013, which amounts to over 12 billion baht worth of debts. 

Mr. Somchai also warned that external loans business is expected to rise in the coming years, due to increase in the price of basic commodities and the needs of many farmers to secure investment fund for their enterprises.