Grieving farmers seek Justice Ministry’s help for rice payments


BANGKOK, Feb 10 – Thailand’s Justice Ministry today accepted angry farmers’ six-point demand regarding overdue payments for their rice under the state pledging scheme and promised to coordinate with other government agencies for their financial assistance.

Farmers moved from the Commerce Ministry where they have rallied since the weekend to the Justice Ministry to submit their demands.

They wanted the permanent secretary for justice to act on their behalf in seeking the overdue payments within seven days and investigate corruption in the rice pledging scheme.

The Justice Ministry was asked to check rice stocks under the subsidy programme, carry out a legal process to compel the prime minister and related ministers to pay for the damage, and seize the assets of the prime minister, Cabinet members and officials allegedly involved in rice corruption to pay farmers.

The farmers also asked the ministry to take legal action so that they get the overdue payments plus interest.

Thawatchai Thaikhiew, deputy permanent secretary for justice, accepted the petition and promised to set up a committee to study the farmers’ grievances.

He said farmers would have to lodge a complaint with police if they wanted to file a special corruption suit against government authorities with the court.

Mr Thawatchai said the Justice Ministry would inquire the Agriculture Ministry if it could use the agriculture fund to help farmers in the initial stage.

He said it would be possible to withdraw money from the justice fund to help farmers but they would have to file a complaint with police first.

The protesting farmers then moved to the Office of the Attorney General.

Mr Thawatchai said a Justice Ministry’s committee will meet on Thursday to discuss possible assistance to farmers.

Besides the Agriculture Ministry, the Social Development and Human Security Ministry will be asked if it can allocate financial assistance from the welfare fund to farmers while the Commerce Ministry may have to allow a delay of farmers’ debt payments, he said.

Srirat Rastapana, permanent secretary for commerce, said after meeting with senior officials that a conclusion on assistance to farmers could not be reached since farmer representatives who were invited to the meeting failed to show up.

She said a meeting with farmers could be held after they returned from their protest.