Rubber protest on hold; compromise expected next week

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Rubber protest on hold; compromise expected next week

SONGKHLA, Jan 10 – Falling rubber prices annd rising anger on the part of Thai rubber growers resulted in blocked roads and one shooting by an inconvenienced driver in daylong demonstrations.

At nightfall it was reported that an agreement has been reached and that the highway blockade would be lifted tonight. Through the day para rubber growers had blocked a main road in this southern province, demanding that the government guarantee the price of rubber.

Latest reports said that negotiations between the minister and protest representatives ended late in the day with a joint statement released with protesters agreeing to end their demonstration tonight and await the governmentโ€™s response to their proposal after the Jan 17 cabinet meeting before announcing their next move.

The statement will be read to the protesters and they are expected to disperse tonight.

About 1,000 para rubber growers closed Phetkasem Road in Songkhla, the South’s major thoroughfare, calling for the government to guarantee the price of rubber at 120 baht per kilogramme after its price dropped to about 80-90 baht per kilogramme.

Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Theera Wongsamut went to Songkhla Tuesday afternoon to meet the governor and negotiate with the protesters in Rattaphum district.

The minister said he will bring the issue to the Jan 17 cabinet meeting as the protesters proposed that the Rubber Estate Organisation intervene to offer price support for 200,000 tonnes of rubber.

However, the growers want an answer from the government today, so they intensified their protest by blocking both inbound and outbound traffic lanes. They threatened further movement to block roads in Phatthalung, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani and Chumphon if their demands are not met.

During the protest, a driver who was dissatisfied with the traffic disruption fired at the crowd, wounding one traffic police officer, Pol Sen Sgt-Maj Somkid Katenuan, and slightly injuring five protesters.