Commerce Ministry partially open as farmers press on for rice payments


BANGKOK, Feb 24 – Farmers rallying at the Commerce Ministry today opened the gate, sealed off since last week, to let civil servants into the building as they continued their demonstration to demand the long overdue payments from the rice pledging scheme.

Officials reported for work in the ministry but were barred from driving their vehicles into the compound.

Farmers from several southwestern provinces have rallied at the ministry for the past three weeks after the government failed to pay for the rice they already delivered under the subsidy programme.

The government has pledged to buy rice at Bt15,000 per tonne, despite much lower prices on the world market.

Some farmers moved from the Commerce Ministry to join the anti-government demonstration at nearby Chaeng Wattana Road. A farm leader said they went on voluntary basis.

Rawee Rungruang, leader of the Thai Farmers Network, said the network would hand over Bt1 million financial assistance to cash-strapped farmers in the central rice-planting provinces of Sing Buri, Ang Thong, Chai Nat, and Lop Buri who have been waiting for rice payments. Each farming household would be granted Bt5,000.

The Administrative Court today received a petition seeking its order to suspend the rice pledging scheme which, the petitioners said, has caused serious harm to the country’s economy.

The petitioners–including members of the Thai Constitution Protection Association, farmers and consumers–also asked the court to order the government to act against corrupt people who illegally cashed in on the two-year rice subsidies.