Thai farmers sceptical of PM Prayut's new development scheme

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha launched the 100 billion baht scheme in the central province on Feb 21, 2018.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha launched the 100 billion baht scheme in the central province on Feb 21, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Farming experts in Nakhon Pathom remain sceptical of the Thai government's sustainable development plan, after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha launched the 100 billion baht (S$4.2 billion) scheme in the central province on Wednesday (Feb 21).

Pathompong Jongsaksawat, 26, a community development specialist working with the organic farming network Punsuk, told The Nation that he was not fully confident given the lack of consistency in government policies.

"Last year, we managed to found this network thanks to the budget allocated from the Pracharat scheme. But then, it got discontinued and we just had to find other sources of funding," he said. "And now they have launched this new policy, Thai Niyom. So, I don't know where this would lead to. We'll have to wait and see."

The Thai Niyom scheme is touted as a sustainable "Thai-style" local development programme that is aimed at diagnosing people's problems at the local level and solving them.

Mr Pathompong, who also participated in the launch event on Wednesday, said that General Prayut appeared to take the matter seriously as he listened to the agriculturists' problems and ordered officials to receive complaints.

But Mr Pathompong was unsure whether or not to support Mr Prayut in the next election.

"I have to see how much his policies achieve. I'm also open to see policies presented by other parties. And I'll decide when the time comes," he said.

Nakhon Pathom is an agricultural province and one of the country's prime organic farming areas.

Mr Prayut, along with members of his Cabinet, including Agriculture Minister Grisada Boonrach, visited the Laembua agricultural learning centre in Nakhon Chaisri district and a few other locations to view the country's agricultural land reform plots.

He told residents there that the government's Thai Niyom committees would visit 70,000 villages nationwide and ask people about their problems so that it can tackle them at their roots.

Thai Niyom, he said, embodies the concept that every Thai favours doing a good deed for the sake of public interest and others.

He himself adheres to this principle, Mr Prayut said, saying that he is not a politician, but a retired soldier who understands the people's plight.

His government visited Nakhon Pathom to see how it could help connect elements in the farming sector for better productivity and prices.

Farm produce, he said, tends to be taken as "political produce", while his government is trying to ensure that is not the case. His government, he said, had come to learn about the people's problems and solve them, although this would take time. He urged the residents to vote for the best choice at the country's next election.

"We come today not to make you love us, but to solve the problems. We will take care of every one of you farmers, but you have to sympathise with us too, as Thailand has 74,000 villages and all have problems of their own," said Mr Prayut.

He urged them to help the government and then vote for a government for all Thais, not just themselves.