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A millionaire from Bangkok and a dress shop owner in Phuket have emerged as high profile critics of the government's cash for the poor scheme, while denying they have an axe to grind. Former actor Krirkphol "Fluke" Masayavanich, who is married into the wealthy Chearavanont clan, emerged as a prominent online critic of state efforts to help those affected by the economic shutdown imposed to fight the Covid outbreak. He asked why, given the huge budgetary resources at its disposal, the government had to rely on the likes of celebrities such as him to ensure aid reached the poor.
Fluke and his wife Natalie Chearavanont, niece of Charoen Pokphand Group founder Dhanin Chearavanont, have been pictured boxing up equipment for hospitals nationwide to help them treat patients. The company earlier handed over 77 million baht to Thammasat University Hospital with proceeds raised from the plastic bags recycling campaign at CP's convenience stores.
Media reports say they donated the funds as part of the government's flagship "You will never be left behind" campaign, a 50 billion baht fund that kicked off last week. It provides 5, baht per month for three months to temporary employees and self-employed workers knocked out of work as the government ordered all but essential activity to cease. Amid a mixed reception on the internet, critics as diverse as Fluke and a kathoey dress shop owner in Patong asked why the government appeared to be doing so little to help.
Pro-regime celebrities joined the government spokesman in rounding on Fluke, asking if he was sowing colour-coded divisions at a time when Thais were urging unity and reminding him that the government's response to the pandemic had been praised overseas.
Kathoey critic Kochaporn Saengchan, meanwhile, known on Facebook as NaNa Kochaporn, was hauled in by local police for a "please explain" after she derided the scheme's 5, baht payout as small change worthy of tucking behind the fridge. Netizens said she appeared to be well-heeled, posting images of overseas holidays and brand-name goods, and asked how she qualified under the scheme when other, more deserving cases missed out.