ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Farmers may rally at Commerce Ministry until they get rice payments
BANGKOK, Feb 6 – Farmers from various provinces started pouring to the Commerce Ministry today to demand overdue payments for the rice they have sold under the government’s subsidy scheme.
Farmers in Nonthaburi, led by Rachane Trakulviang, demonstrated at the ministry, awaiting compatriots from other provinces.
Prasit Bunchouy, leader of the Thai Farmers Association, confirmed that farmers would join the protest, saying they have given the government enough time to help them but no concrete action was taken.
Farmers in Thailand’s southwestern provinces who have blockaded Rama II Road at Wang Manao intersection in Ratchburi since Saturday have announced that they would demonstrate at the Commerce Ministry in Bangkok.
Deputy Commerce Minister Yanyong Puangrach said in a meeting with representatives from the Thai Rice Mills Association that the ministry would ask rice millers to partially pay for the delivered rice.
Farmers who have delivered rice to rice mills are given receipts to be cashed with the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC).
The BAAC is, however, exhausted its reserves of cash and is unable to make payment.
Mr Yanyong said rice millers would be asked to lend 50-60 per cent of the total payment in a receipt, after which full payment will be given by the BAAC.
Once a farmer gets money from the BAAC, he has to pay back to the rice mill, free of interest, the deputy minister said, adding that the ministry would seek a permission from the Election Commission to withdraw Bt1.2 billion from the central fund to pay for the interest on farmers’ behalf.
The assistance measure which involves 500-600 rice mills under the subsidy programme is voluntary, he said.
Mr Yanyong pacified farmers by assuring that the government was trying to find whatever measures it could to help farmers, similar to the way BAAC did in extending debt payments to farmers for six months and offering low interest borrowing.
He said the Foreign Trade Department will launch auctions in February and March to release nearly one million tonnes of rice from the state stockpiles to earn money to pay farmers, after having sold over one million tonnes of rice last month.
Manas Kitprasert, president of the Thai Rice Mills Association, said rice millers would have to discuss the government’s new option to help farmers.
Meanwhile, farmers from three rice-planting provinces of Singburi, Chai Nat and Ang Thong, submitted a letter to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, asking it to investigate the government's payments for rice from the latest crop.
They said farmers had been waiting in vain for the last 8-9 months for the overdue payments, impeding them from paying their debts to the BAAC and other lenders.
The government had promised to pay farmers after the general election, they said. (MCOT online news)
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