Deputy PM Pracha says PM worried by rubber planters protest


BANGKOK, Sept 1 – Deputy PM Pracha Promnok said on Sunday that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was concerned about the ongoing rubber protest, following shootings on the protest site in Nakhon Si Thammarat province that killed one man and seriously wounded another.

Sirichai Boonnuwong, 29, of Samut Prakan province, was shot in the head and died at hospital, while the wounded man was identified as Sittisak Chai-ngam, 25, from Nakhon Si Thammarat.

He said the wrongdoers would be found, and the government expressed its condolences for the losses and the incident’s happening. He asserted that the act was not done by police officers, for they are stationed 10km from the protest site.

National police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew is going to Nakhon Si Thammarat today, while a bounty of Bt100,000 is offered to those providing evidence leading to the gunmen. The governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat offered Bt50,000 from his personal funds as addition to the reward.

Personal conflicts and the dissatisfaction of those affected by the road and rail blockage resulting from the protest are two issues to be followed by authorities.

However, local police said later today they already knew who did the shootings, but declined to disclose further for fear of impact to the case, and believed in no more than two days those responsible would be found, following evidence given by the wounded man, Mr Sittisak, now receiving treatment at a local hospital.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said the party denied allegations of a Bt200 million budget thrown by the government to stop rubber planters in northern and northeastern Thailand from joining the mass rubber planters protest on Sept 3 with farmers in the South.

In Nakhon Si Thammarat, the protest site in Cha-uat district became livelier after the two men had been shot.

The rubber farmers network association led by Aeid Seng-aeid issued its second statement this morning, asking the government to be responsible for the shot men and send representatives to talk with protesters by 11am tomorrow. Village chiefs in the province also supported the protesters’ move to conclude the falling rubber price problems.

In Ranong, the local rubber planters network decided not to join the mass rally on Sept 3, but affirmed that the group would still ask the government to fix the rubber prices as they demanded, with the price of smoked third-class raw rubber sheet at Bt101/kg, raw rubber sheet at Bt92/kg and rubber latex expected to continue at Bt81/kg.

In Surat Thani, where rubber and oil palm planters from 14 southern provinces will gather at a cooperative office for their mass rally on Tuesday, the village chiefs association, led by Kamron Thaugsuban, concluded that it will stand by rubber growers in tackling their problems.

Surat Thani Governor Chatpong Chatputi said the province has opened an operations centre, chaired by the governor himself, to monitor protest situations on Sept 3 as well as to launch preventive measures for the safety of demonstrators and in order that road commuters will not be affected by the demonstration.