EC rejects govt request for loans to pay farmers

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BANGKOK, Jan 22 – The Election Commission (EC) has turned down the government’s request to seek additional loans to subsidise the controversial rice pledging scheme, saying it lacks the authority to do so.

The unanimous decision was made by the five-member EC after caretaker Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong was invited to explain the proposed borrowing.

Puchong Nutrawong, EC secretary general, said the Constitution does not authorise the caretaker Cabinet to approve a project which will become an obligation for the next government.

“It’s the government’s call. The caretaker government must be accountable for its decision, both legally and politically, if it’s found in the future to have violated the Constitution,” said Mr Puchong.

Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, EC member for election administration, said the EC could not agree with the government’s proposed loans to pay farmers under the rice subsidy programme since the borrowing will pose a financial burden to the next government.

“The EC is not empowered to decide on the government’s behalf. It’s up to the government whether it wants to go ahead with securing the loans. Mr Kittiratt made it clear to the EC that the loan payment could not be finished during the tenure of the caretaker government,” he said.