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21 January 2014
Read in Minutes


Dems focus on rice plan fiasco

Abhisit to launch push for reform to curb graft

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva’s election campaign will focus on educating the public about why the Pheu Thai Party-led government’s rice-pledging scheme has failed.

The Democrats believe the campaign will lead to a better understanding about policy-oriented corruption. It will push for reform of ways to curb corruption in the public sector.

Mr Abhisit will begin a tour in the Central region this week. A growing number of rice farmers are coming out to pressure the caretaker government to pay them for the paddy pledged under the rice scheme.

The Democrat Party will take the rice-pledging scheme as a model to push for reform of corruption prevention mechanisms, Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said yesterday.

This suggested reform would be part of the country’s reform, he said, adding he hoped the government would speed up efforts to resolve problems surrounding the scheme.

Prasit Boonchuey, president of the Thai Farmers Association, said he would lead representatives of rice farmers affected by unpaid deals under the scheme to consult the Lawyers Council of Thailand over their decision to sue the government for failing to pay them ricepledging money as promised.

The government had previously promised to get all the unpaid deals done by last Wednesday.

Niphon Poapongsakorn, an honorary researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute, suggested the care-taker government come to an agreement with state banks to allow farmers to use certificates they received upon pledging their rice as collateral for borrowing so farmers would have liquidity.

The National Rice Policy Committee,which oversees the scheme, will today convene a meeting to discuss the ministry’s efforts to speed up selling pledged rice for money to pay farmers.

Farmers from six districts of Phichit province planned to surround their provincial hall last night to pressure the government to pay what is owed.

Kittisak Rattanawaraha, chairman of the Northern Farmers Network, said farmers had not yet received payment after pledging their rice with the government four months ago.

About 300 farmers yesterday gathered on the inbound side of the Asian Highway at Bung Na Rang district of Phichit province for a third day.

In Uttaradit, Jirapong Paenpech who led a group of farmers who still were waiting for their payments under the rice scheme said the government had come up with many excuses including blaming the Election Commission for barring it from seeking additional loans to fund the rice scheme.

The government’s time was over, and about 2,000 affected farmers would today begin blocking Uttaradit-Phitsanulok road that links the North and the Central region until the government gives a satisfactory answer.

In Ratchaburi, affected farmers yesterday began handing in their ricepledging certificates to Walit Jaroensombat who will represent them in a move to sue the government for the unpaid deals.

Mr Walit said only about 4,000 out of 27,000 farmers in this province had received payments. The farmers would also stage a road-blocking protest in Ratchaburi and in Bangkok.


First published: Bangkok Post,  January 20,  2014