Thai rice farmers rally for payments, protest leader promises to help
Rice farmers rallied at Thailand's commerce ministry on Thursday as well as blocked a major highway in central Thailand to demand overdue payment for paddy they had sold to government under its rice pledging scheme, heaping pressure on a caretaker government struggling to contain three-month-old street protests.
The farmers from central provinces like Ratchaburi and Petchaburi turned up in a convoy of cars, trucks and harvesters just before noon on Thursday, calling the government to sell its rice stockpiles of about 20 million tonnes to pay them.
Under the two-year-old scheme, the government buys rice from farmers at up to 15,000 baht (S$581) per tonne, which works out to about 50 per cent above world prices. But the programme has run into funding problems, and Thai banks have been reluctant to extend loans to keep it going as they are unsure about the legal status of the caretaker government.
Although Thailand held its general election on Feb 2, protester blockades have meant that just under half of its electorate cast their vote. The election commission has said it will not announce results until the necessary by-elections are held, extending Thailand's political limbo by weeks, if not months.