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BAAC hopes for Bt30 bn by month-end to pay cash-strapped farmers

THE BANK for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives hopes to receive Bt30 billion by the end of this month to pay farmers who have been waiting for almost five months for money owed to them under the government's rice-pledging scheme.

BAAC president Luck Wajananawat said yesterday that Bt20 billion-worth of funding, to be released after the Election Commission (EC) recently approved a request by the government to take money from the national central budget, was likely to be transferred to the bank next week.

Disbursement of the Bt20 billion is the responsibility of the Commerce Ministry.

The amount is designed to pay farmers who were given pledging receipts and registered with the BAAC to receive money ahead of the dissolution of the House on December 9 last year.

However, Luck said it would be insufficient to meet those commitments because the total payments that were due before December 9 amounted to between Bt30 billion and Bt40 billion.

The bank hopes, therefore, to receive additional funds worth Bt10 billion - earned from the sale of rice by the Commerce Ministry - by the end of the month.

At the same time, it hopes an estimated Bt2 billion from the Farmers' Assistance Funds can be made available in the same time scale, he added.

"The funds should be completely paid to the farmers [that pledged rice in November] and cover all of the country," caretaker Commerce Minister Yanyong Phuangrach said recently.

In addition, the BAAC president said there was still the option of obtaining more funds via the issuance of a savings bond.

More details on the bond issuance are expected to be given in the next two weeks.

Initially, the Finance Ministry said it was unlikely to guarantee the bonds. However, bonds issued without a guarantee by the government would take another two months for filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in line with the agency's rules and regulations, said Luck.

Meanwhile, the EC yesterday said it was not itself worried whether the Bt20-billion fund to be taken from the central budget is returned in full by the deadline of May 31.

Election commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said it was for high-ranking officials to ponder whether the Commerce Ministry could sell rice in sufficient quantities to generate enough money to return the sum to the Finance Ministry.

If not, it would be the Finance Ministry's duty to recall the funding from the Commerce Ministry.

Thai Rice Farmers Network chairman Rawee Rungrueng yesterday said the government still lacked the ability to obtain anything like a funding amount equal to what it owed the farmers - that is, almost Bt120 billion.

The amount being released from the central budget only partially eases the burden on cash-strapped farmers, he said.

The Foreign Trade Department on Tuesday announced a tender involving general bidding for 496,556 tonnes of white, jasmine and provincial fragrant rice on March 10.

Those who intend to join the bidding can offer prices at the Commerce Ministry in Nonthaburi from 9am to 4.30pm.

Meanwhile, Sunthorn Payak, vice president of the Lawyers Council of Thailand, which is acting on behalf of 30,000 farmers, on Tuesday said the council was preparing legal documents to file a lawsuit with the Administrative Court in the provinces against caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and 11 other persons for being in violation of the Constitution.

Compensation will be claimed for damages over the failed rice-pledging scheme, while the courts will be asked to order the government to open the state's granaries, the lawyer said.


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