Unpaid rice farmers protest as Thai government's problems mount
BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Hundreds of farmers rallied outside Thailand's justice ministry on Monday to protest against the state's failure to pay them for rice bought under a controversial subsidy scheme that the caretaker administration in Bangkok is struggling to fund.
The rice programme was a signature policy of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was swept to power in 2011 with the help of millions of rural votes, but has become one of the biggest threats to her grip on power.
Farmers' leaders said they planned to march later on defence ministry offices in northern Bangkok that have been Yingluck's temporary headquarters since a campaign by anti-government protesters to disrupt normal business in the capital forced her to relocate in January.
"We have increased security in preparation for the farmers'protest," Paradorn Pattanathabutr, Thailand's National Security Chief, told Reuters. "The prime minister has not changed her schedule and will be working from the defence office as usual." The protest movement in Bangkok that is trying to drive Yingluck from office has found much of its support from middle-class, urban taxpayers appalled at what they see as corruption and waste in the rice scheme. Demonstrations began in November.