New curbs on populist policies

New curbs on populist policies

Parties face fines for lack of clarity

Welfare card holders queue up at an ATM booth in Pathum Thani province in 2018 to withdraw handouts from the government. (File photo)
Welfare card holders queue up at an ATM booth in Pathum Thani province in 2018 to withdraw handouts from the government. (File photo)

The Election Commission (EC) has warned against populist policies touted by political parties, saying they must clarify the sources of money to finance the policies or face a fine of up to 500,000 baht.

The move comes as the United Thai Nation (UTN) Party unveiled a number of campaign policies involving cash handouts to woo voters ahead of the general election expected on May 7.

A source at the EC said parties can present campaign policies that do not require money as long as they are not against the law.

But populist polices that require substantial amounts of money must follow regulations issued by the EC in line with Sections 57 and 74 of the law on the election of MPs.

Under the regulations, parties must inform the EC of how much money will be needed to fund those policies and clarify the sources.

Parties must also prove that their policies are worth implementing and will benefit the public as well as show their potential risks and impacts.

Moreover, campaigns must not contradict the party policies as stipulated by Section 74 of the election law.

Violators of Section 57 face a fine of up to 500,000 baht and a daily fine of 10,000 baht for as long as they fail to comply.

Parties that violate Section 74 face a jail term of up to 10 years and/or a fine of between 20,000 and 200,000 baht as well as have their voting rights suspended for 20 years.

The source added the EC will send undercover officials to observe parties’ election campaigns and report the activities to the EC.

UTN leader Pirapan Salirathavibhaga on Saturday introduced a number of election policies under the party’s slogan “Done, doing and will continue” at the party’s headquarters in Soi Ari 5 of Phaya Thai district in Bangkok.

He said the policies will build on the success of the government’s projects aimed at improving people’s livelihood.

New projects will also be initiated to address the bread-and-butter issues affecting everyday life if the UTN can form a government after the poll, he said.

One policy is to raise the monthly allowances for state welfare cardholders to 1,000 baht each, he said. Cardholders can also use their cards as collateral for a loan of up to 10,000 baht from the Government Savings Bank (GSB).

“The card has credibility because the government finances it. The GSB already offers a loan programme to lend up to 10,000 to small borrowers,” Mr Pirapan said.

Holders of welfare cards currently receive 200–300 baht per month, plus up to 500 baht per month for public transport expenses.

Cardholders with an annual income of less than 30,000 baht are currently given 300 baht per month, while those with an annual income of between 30,000 and 100,000 baht receive 200 baht per month.

Another policy is to set up an emergency fund worth 30 billion baht to help people in need of emergency financial aid, Mr Pirapan said.

Borrowing criteria will be more relaxed than those of other financial institutions to allow people at the grassroots level easier access to financial sources, he said.

Another policy is to allow subscribers under Section 33 of the Social Security Act to get a 30% advance on their pension, Mr Pirapan said.

Another policy involves “paying debts with work”, he said, explaining that while some debtors are struggling to repay their debt, they still have some knowledge to contribute to society.

“Debtors of the Student Loan Fund are a case in point. Some may have no intention to default, but they really don’t have money to repay the debt. Suing them in court will be futile.

“We should make use of their knowledge for social development. They don’t have to repay debt with money but with their work,” he said.