BANGKOK - A Thai woman set herself on fire inside a Bangkok government building Wednesday after she was unable to pay off loans of $46,000, officials said, as household debt in Thailand rises to a record high.
Sangvean Raksapet, 52, from central Lop Buri province, was rushed to hospital with severe burns after she set herself alight in a state-run complaints centre opposite Government House, leaving shocked officials to put out the flames.
"Officials managed to put out the fire... She was under stress due to her huge personal debt," Bangkok police lieutenant Kingpetch Setiya said.
Prawit Wongsuwon, deputy prime minister and defence minister, confirmed the incident, saying Sangvean had visited the centre several times seeking help to settle her debts.
"This woman borrowed money from other villagers amounting to around 1.5 million baht (S$59,000).. but when the repayment date arrived she had no money," he told AFP.
According to research firm Capital Economics, Thai household debt levels hit record highs of 83 per cent of gross domestic product in the second quarter this year, up from 79 per cent in the same period in 2013.
The increase "over the past decade has been among the sharpest in the region, and such a rapid build-up raises financial stability risks," said Krystal Tan, an economist at Capital Economics.
Thailand's economy grew 0.9 per cent in the second quarter, dodging recession after the military ended months of political deadlock with a coup and promised to unshackle spending.
The ruling junta has pegged its legitimacy to improving the economy after months of political protests froze government spending and battered consumer spending.