The army will probe its internal lending system after a senior military officer was accused of swindling some of the system’s funds.
News of the proposed probe came after two businesswomen, identified only as Ms Koi and Ms Bird, who were contracted by the army to build houses for army officers, claimed they had been threatened by a senior army officer.
Both Ms Koi and Ms Bird went to the Justice Ministry on Tuesday to request protection from the alleged threats.
The women said they had been threatened by the officer because they had knowledge of his alleged swindling of the loans.
The loans, supposedly offered with low interest, are disbursed under the army’s welfare system to the soldiers who use the money to build their houses.
Lawyer Paisarn Ruangrit, who accompanied the women to the ministry, said it was suspected that the senior army officer, believed to be attached to the army’s welfare department, had swindled some of the loan money, by claiming the recipients had to pay a 5% welfare fee and a further unspecified amount called a “loose change” fee.
The army soldiers who obtained the loans were taken aback by the fee deductions, Mr Paisarn said.
They had mistakenly thought the fees were collected by the builders who included Ms Koi and Ms Bird.
The loan recipients then confronted the women and demanded an explanation as to why they charged the fees. The women insisted they had nothing to do with loan deductions, prompting the soldiers to explain the fees and that is how they came to be aware of the malpractice, according to the lawyer.
Ms Koi said she then made an inquiry with the army and who told her that no such loan fees should have been charged.
Mr Paisarn alleged that many soldiers also had their loans deducted illegally with the money most probably going into the senior army officer’s pocket.
Meanwhile, acting Sub Lt Thanakrit Jitareerat, secretary to the justice minister, said the ministry had been in touch with related authorities who were investigating the problem.
Army spokesman Lt Gen Nirundorn Srikacha on Tuesday denied suggestions that graft in the lending system might be behind the massacre in Nakhon Ratchasima in 2020 when soldier Jakrapanth Thomma killed 29 people and wounded over 50.
It was reported that Jakrapanth had been under heavy stress over a housing loan that he took out under the army’s welfare scheme prior to the shooting rampage.
Article source: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/2417341/army-loan-fund-faces-probe