Thai Cabinet approves social welfare package


BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s government has approved a package of social welfare measures slammed by critics as populist handouts designed to woo voters in a key election year.

The Cabinet endorsed the measures Tuesday as part of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s People’s Development policy, which seeks to restore social order in the wake of anti-government protests last year that brought chaos to the Thai capital for months.

The measures include low-interest loans for taxi drivers, food vendors and farmers; free electricity for minimal monthly use; a cap of 30 baht ($1) per liter (quart) on diesel fuel and extending social security benefits to millions of low-income Thais. Last year’s protests demanding early elections highlighted Thailand’s divide between rich and poor.