Vorapak fights social media attacks

Economy February 10, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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The past two weeks must have been extremely hectic for Krungthai Bank president Vorapak Tanyawong, as the bank was faced with a series of rumours.

The bank, which is 51 per cent owned by the Financial Institutions Development Fund, was rumoured to have been involved in the lending of Bt160 billion to finance the government’s rice-pledging scheme. 
Social-media users have bombarded the bank for allegedly supporting the controversial programme, and some also urged depositors to withdraw their money.
Vorapak fought back with all of his energy.
First, he told reporters that the news was untrue. 
As the rumour raged on despite his denial, he summoned reporters for a quick briefing. This time, he assured all depositors that such lending would never happen, as legal issues linked with such borrowing by a caretaker government were unresolved. 
The rumour continued, though, together with another one that two state-owned banks had seen massive withdrawals of some Bt7 billion in a matter of days.
Late last week, Vorapak changed his Line cover photo. It shows him, smiling, with a tagline saying: “KTB has never lent money to the rice-pledging project.” To assure all depositors, the same photo also appeared on the screens of all the bank’s automated teller and automated deposit machines.
It’s hoped that this will stop these social-media attacks. It was clear that they rose in tandem with the overwhelming power of anti-government protesters – the upper-middle-income people who are the most active in social media. Even the Election Commission had to send a warning last week, that it might take legal action against anyone linking the EC with the lack of payments to farmers.
When the Bank of Thailand hosted a regular meeting with bankers last week, it had to keep the venue secret. All reporters were asked not to reveal the meeting date or where it would take place.
‘Ladies, sacrifice your figure for the country’
Amid the chaos concerning the government’s rice-pledging scheme, Thai Rice Exporters Association president Charoen Laothamtas is more worried about some?thing else – low rice consumption among Thais.
He suggested that the government launch a national campaign to encourage people to eat one more rice meal a day. 
Among countries where rice is a main staple, Thais eat comparatively little of the grain – 10 million tonnes a year for the 65 million population. This is just half of the annual output. 
“You, ladies, should worry less about fat,” Charoen said. “By eating more rice, you can help your country.”
In his view, this campaign should work better in helping farmers than the rice-pledging scheme. The programme entails about Bt200 billion in annual subsidies, but as the export market is very competitive, Thailand earns only about Bt140 billion from rice exports per annum. 
The association should work out a comprehensive plan for the campaign. Whatever, rice exporters these days are less busy than before because of the pledging scheme.
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