BANGKOK, Feb 7 – Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has blamed an “ulterior power” for attempting to topple the government and disrupting the rice pledging scheme.
On her Facebook page yesterday, she said the Finance Ministry was finding financial sources to pay farmers despite legal restrictions while the Commerce Ministry would tender rice in the state stockpiles to earn money for overdue payments to farmers.
There are unconventional and undemocratic political games with the objectives of removing the government and obstructing the present administration from successively working for the people’s well-being despite the fact that farmers themselves have been in favour of rice subsidies, she said.
She said related government agencies were instructed to solve problems which impeded payments to farmers.
Claiming that the government’s policy has been accepted by farmers and has been successful in increasing farmers’ income in the last two years, she vowed to work with her Cabinet for the success of the project.
Political unrest in the last few months which led to dissolution of the House of Representatives and general election had restricted administrative work, she said.
Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister/Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan said overdue payments for farmers were Bt116 billion, plus another amount of Bt712 million for rice delivered last July-September which has yet to be paid to 3,000 farmers in five central provinces of Uthai Thani, Prachin Buri, Chachoengsao, Ayutthaya and Phetchaburi.
Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said on his Facebook page that the government has paid Bt600 billion for rice in the 2013/2014 crop but political conflicts, triggered by the opposition, has delayed budget allocation for overdue payments.
He said intimidation against financial institutes and state agencies has delayed the payments but it would not deter the Finance Ministry to follow the Cabinet’s decision regarding the rice programme.
Regarding former finance minister Pridiyathorn Devakula’s proposal for national reform, he said it could take place in parallel with the election, as the country needs a fully-authorised government to solve pending problems especially economic woes.
He said Thailand has moved another step forward after successfully holding the general election in which more than 20 million people exercised their voting rights.
Mr Pridiyathorn is trapped in the same old issues similar to anti-government protesters – a display of his disrespect to the voice of 20 million people who have patiently upheld democracy, he said.
Vicha Mahakhun, a member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), said officials would meet with farmers in Sing Buri, Chai Nat and Ang Thong to collect first-hand information to substantiate the commission’s ongoing investigation on rice pledging scandal.
Farmers from the three provinces lodged a complaint with the NACC yesterday, requesting legal action against those involved in rice pledging corruption.
He said former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom would have to testify to clarify the rice scheme before the NACC on Feb 20, to be followed by caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck and other officials.
“We will urgently investigate the case which has created hardship to farmers. Corrupt people should return some money to farmers. I was intimidated and warned against investigating the case but I do not feel depressed. I was told to stay in a safe house,” he said.