Investigators from the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission collect evidence at the Khon Kaen Protection for the Destitute offices on Wednesday after a complaint about alleged embezzlement of taxpayer funds intended for poor people. (Photo by Jakkrapan Natanri)

Two senior officials at the Social Development and Human Security Ministry have been shunted to the Prime Minister’s Office to clear the way for investigations into alleged embezzlement of funds intended for the poor at welfare centres across the country.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha signed an order on Friday to immediately transfer Puttipat Lertchaowasit, permanent secretary for social development and human security, and his deputy, Narong Khongkham, to his office.

The transfer is necessary for investigators to complete their inquiries into alleged corruption involving state funds for the underprivileged, the order said.

The investigations are being carried out by the ministry and the Area 4 Office of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) in Khon Kaen.

The Khon Kaen Protection for the Destitute centre is the main target but authorities now believe there could be many other similar cases of taxpayers’ money being stolen before it ever reached the poor people it was supposed to help.

The suspected embezzlement was exposed by Panida Yotpanya, a social science student at Maha Sarakham University, and three friends after they interned at the centre in Khon Kaen last year. They lodged a complaint with the National Council for Peace and Order, and the PACC and the ministry later stepped in.

The students said they were ordered by Khon Kaen centre director Phuangphayom Chitkhom and other senior officials to fill in forms and sign receipts in the names of 2,000 local residents for sums worth nearly 7 million baht.

The PACC is now looking into 37 out of 70 welfare centres across the country suspected of embezzlement, following the Khon Kaen scandal.

News Reporter

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