Model probed on welfare fraud rap

Model probed on welfare fraud rap

Wachrin Tankuranant showed his welfare card during a TV interview, and said items seen in Facebook and Instagram posts were borrowed from friends. (Screen grabs Amarin TV, photo via Instagram)

A male model suspected of pretending to be poor in order to receive a welfare card is being investigated by the Comptroller-General’s Department.

The department chief, Suttirat Rattanachot, said she has obtained the name of the model, who has been subjected to criticism on social media for obtaining a welfare card despite appearing to live a life of comfort but who was granted a welfare card.

But the man shamed on social media has come forward to say he is in fact poor, and his Instagram and Facebook photos are simply to “appear beautiful”.

Ms Suttirat said the department would check how the model passed the cardholder qualification screening process.

To qualify for the card, a person must be a Thai national, be 18 years old or older, earn no more than 100,000 baht a year, and have savings of no more than 100,000 baht. In addition, if they own property, it must be no larger than 25 square wah if a house or 35 sq m for apartments.

The department director-general said the fact-finding inquiry will also check if the model has paid any income tax and, if he has, whether he had paid the full amount. The Revenue Department will be asked to find out if the model holds any tax record.

The inquiry will not take very long, Ms Suttirat said.

“We can’t allow [the card issue involving the model] go unchecked. The inquiry will be conducted thoroughly,” she said.

A man came forward Monday to claim he was the person involved.

Wachrin Tankuranant showed his welfare card. He said he was poor, and the items in the video all were borrowed or supplied by friends or agents for photo shoots.

In an interview shown on Amarin TV and available (in Thai) on YouTube, he said he lives with his brother, who is unemployed.

“We have no monthly income, and you can check,” he said.

Mr Wachrin admitted he posted Facebook and Instagram images. “I want to look beautiful, but the items aren’t mine. I’m down but I’m beautiful.”

Finance Ministry spokesman Suwit Rojanawanich said the check on the model would also shed light on his sources and amount of income and who his employer is.

If the model has made false declarations about his financial status to obtain welfare, authorities would immediately cancel the card and he will be told to return any money he has claimed using the card.

Mr Suwit, also director of the Fiscal Policy Office, added the model may also be criminally punished for presenting false information to the state.

“If there is evidence the model furnished false information, he will be invited to explain himself to the authorities. A complaint could also be filed with the police against him,” he said.

Under the state welfare scheme, low-income earners are given welfare cards to buy low-priced consumer products at Thong Fah Pracha Rat and other designated shops.

The government transfers 200-300 baht a month to each card. Recipients earning less than 30,000 baht a year receive a monthly allowance of 300 baht, and those with annual earnings in the range of 30,000-100,000 baht get 200 baht a month.

Mr Suwit said the authorities had closely screened the backgrounds of people who applied for the welfare cards.

However, he admitted it was difficult to know for certain if card applicants had lied about their backgrounds if their income records were not kept in the mainstream financial system.

He said the ministry was still reviewing the successes and problems of the cards a month after launching the scheme, but he said overall the ministry was satisfied so far.