More farmers press for payment for their rice

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KANCHANABURI, Jan 18 – Farmers in Thailand’s western provinces have joined their fellow growers countrywide to pressure the government to pay for the rice they sold under the state subsidy scheme.

Prasit Boonchoey, leader of the Thai Rice Farmers Association, said farmers have set Jan 25 as the deadline for the government to settle debts after they delivered rice from the 2013/2014 crop but have not yet been paid.

They threatened to stage a protest if payments were not made and called on the Commerce Ministry to urgently release rice in its stocks in exchange for money.

Mr Prasit said farmers from western rice-planting provinces who met yesterday urged the government to stop the rice pledging programme to pave the way for free trade and preparations to enter the Southeast Asian rice trading system.

Farmers in the northeastern province of Buri Ram rallied at the provincial hall yesterday to ask for payment for their rice which has been delayed for several months.

They later blocked Highway 226 which connects Buri Ram and Surin and vowed to continue their rally unless they received a reply from the government regarding payment.

Police and volunteers strictly guarded the entrances to the provincial government complex to prevent farmers’ intrusion.

Somboon Klanprakone, 46, a farmer’s representative, said farmers have been in financial trouble since they were not paid for the rice they have sold.

Many of them have been forced to borrow from loan sharks to cover expenses and make payments to the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, he said.