Politicians accused of rubber protest involvement


BANGKOK, Sept 17 – A senior government official today charged some provincial and national politicians with interfering in the rubber farmer protest in Thailand’s South which escalated into a violent clash, injuring scores of police officers.

Thawat Boonfueng, deputy secretary general to the prime minister, said the protesters who blocked Kuan Nong Hong intersection of Highway No 41 in Nakhon Si Thammarat included a mix of rubber farmers and teenagers who instigated the unrest.

Politicians were also involved in the incident, he said, leading to suspicion that they were planning to topple the government.

Nakhon Si Thammarat governor Viroj Jiwarangsan extended his order banning entry into the rally site at Khuan Nong Hong intersection for another 24 hours under the Disaster Prevention Act of 2007 provided that the situation remains tense.

Mr Thawat however said he did not believe the situation would escalate to the point (of overthrowing the government), he said, but said that farmers should not be used as tools for others.

“It was foreseeable that the authorities resorted to harsh action in dealing with the protesters. However, that action might be raised as a reason to criticise the government,” he said.

He called on the protesters to avoid using force and claimed that most rubber farmers have agreed to the government’s resolution on financial assistance.

He reaffirmed that the government would not enforce the Internal Security Act unless it was proposed by the police, saying the government would not interfere in the authorities’ handling of the southern incident.

Nakhon Si Thammarat governor earlier announced imposing the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act in the province.

Suthep Thaugsuban, Democrat MP from Surat Thani and a leading opposition member, lashed out at Pheu Thai Party spokesman’s allegation that Democrat MPs were behind the Nakhon Si Thammarat melee.

He said Prompong Nopparit, a staunch opponent of the Democrat Party, was creating a misunderstanding among the public for blaming his party with supporting the rubber farming protesters.

There was no politician involvement in the protests and farmers staged the demonstration themselves because of their grievances with the falling rubber price, said Mr Suthep.