PM: Special law will not be used to control rubber protests

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BANGKOK, Sept 17 — Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday said once again that the continuing protest of rubber farmers in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat does not warrant use of the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Ms Yingluck said National Police Chief Gen Adul Saengsingkaew reported the latest situation to the Cabinet and said he would go to Nakhon Si Thammarat to meet the governor and assess the situation at the scene.

The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act and Thailand’s ordinary law are sufficient to handle the situation, the premier said, so it is unnecessary to impose the ISA to control the situation.

The authorities will evaluate the situation regularly for prompt response to any incident, Ms Yingluck said, adding that she wanted the protest to end as soon as possible without any violence.

Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Yukol Lim-laemthong have been assigned to assess the situation, seeking measures to help ease the economic impact, she said.

Rubber planter protesters still occupy Kuan Nong Hong intersection in Cha-uat district after clashing with police on Monday when more than 10 police vehicles were torched during the violent confrontation, while scores of people were injured.

The protesters insisted that they disagreed with the government’s latest decision on financial aid to rubber farmers.

Government Spokesman Teerat Ratanasevi said the Cabinet instructed the police to exercise utmost restraint in dealing with the protest.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports reported to the cabinet that the Nakhon Si Thammarat protest has already cost the tourism industry some Bt500 million. It was unclear how the demonstration would affect this week’s Full Moon Party at Koh Pha-ngan Thursday and Friday.

Meanwhile, Nakhon Si Thammarat governor Wiroj Jiwarangsan used the authority of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act extend his order to declare the protest site, Kuan Nong Hong intersection in Cha-uat distrct, as a restricted area for 24 hours.

Under the order, anyone not involved or not living in the area is not allowed to enter the rally site. He said this was not a curfew or curbing the public rights but simply a precaution to protect people from danger.

Mr Wiroj also said  the government could not intervene to guarantee the rubber prices as demanded by the protesters, particularly at the Bt120/kg as the farmers would not benefit, only the middlemen. It would also interfere with the world market mechanism.