BANGKOK (AFP): The gap between rich and poor in Thailand has continued growing since the 1997 Asian economic crisis as more people slip below the poverty line, a cabinet statement said today. The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) said in its latest study sent to the cabinet that some 7.9 million Thais live below the poverty line on less than 911 baht (23 dollars) a month. This was equivalent to 12.9 percent of the population at the end of 1998, the statement said, compared to some 11.4 percent in 1996. The NESDB study said that most of Thailand’s poor live in the rural northeast bordering Laos. The lowest-earning 20 percent of Thailand’s households — 3.28 million households out of 16.4 million — accounted for a mere 5.3 percent of the total national household income in 1999, the survey found. The wealthiest 20 percent accounted for some 51.6 percent of national household income. “The income gap expanded to 9.7 times in 1999, from 8.4 times in the previous year,” the cabinet statement said. The NESDB found the average household income in 1999 was 12,729 baht per month, a 1.9 percent increase from 1998. But household spending averaged 10,238 baht, a 1.5 percent decrease.
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