Rubber protesters warn authorities against using force


NAKHON SI THAMMARAT, Sept 20 – Rubber farmers in Thailand’s 16 southern provinces continued their demonstration on a highway here and threatened to strengthen their protest if the authorities use force again to disperse them.

Police and protesters were locked in a clash on Monday when scores of police officers were injured and about 10 police vehicles damaged or burnt, forcing the provincial administration to apply the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act which expired today at 5am.

Democrat MP Witthaya Kaewparadai said after meeting with protesting rubber farmers at Highway 41’s Kuan Nong Hong intersection that the farmers charged the government with breaching an agreement and insisted that they wanted to hold talks with Deputy Prime Ministers Pracha Promnok and Kittiratt Na-Ranong.

Kuan Nong Hong intersection, between Km333 and Km334 of Highway 41, has been the demonstration site for rubber protesters who have blocked the road since the weekend.

Mr Witthaya said the farmers wanted the government to guarantee the price of rubber sheets at Bt90 per kg.

Nakhon Si Thammarat governor Wiroj Jiwarangsan said over 60,000 of all 120,000 rubber growers have applied for government financial assistance at Bt2,520 per rai of rubber plantation.

The first payments to 100 farmers should be made late this month, he said.

Varathep Ratanakorn, deputy agriculture minister, said the government was investigating a report that rubber traders have hoarded 27 million kg of rubber sheets in speculation for higher price.