Thailand: Many fall prey to loan sharks during pandemic due to lack of access to legitimate loans
"Thai police go after loan sharks preying on vulnerable people amid pandemic", 17 September 2022
[...] illegal money-lending services that have thrived across Thailand and preyed on people hard up on cash during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Thai police. The authorities, who have been cracking down on such illegal loan operations, estimate these criminal enterprises brought in millions of baht from unsuspecting customers.
As the pandemic spread across Thailand, many fell prey to such illegal operations because they had no access to legitimate loans during hard times, a senior police investigator said.
Online money lending, including smartphone app-based services, replaced traditional bank loans for many people because they offered easy approval without proper documents or credit checks. For some of the victims, it only took them a few minutes to borrow a few thousand baht.
In June 2020, three months into Thailand’s COVID-19 lockdown, the Royal Thai Police established the Center for Countering Abuse by Loan Sharks after receiving increasing complaints from victims reporting physical intimidation.
So far, police have investigated more than 7,000 cases. The center’s hotline had received about 4,000 calls a month for eight months ending in June, but could only respond to a quarter of them because of a lack of resources.
Still, police arrested 833 loan shark suspects in those eight months, froze 254 bank accounts, impounded hundreds of cars and motorcycles and seized 1.49 million baht ($49,780) in cash. The center estimated the value of assets confiscated to be more than 31 million baht ($852,600).
Authorities said several suicides have been blamed on threats from loan sharks in the past two years.