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MINISTER SEEKS LEGAL OPINION ON RICE SALES

Minister of Commerce Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan will consult the ministry's legal unit for its opinion whether new contracts can be signed for the release of rice in the government inventory in a new round of government-to-government sales and on auction basis, following the House dissolution. The minister said that by practice, the Department of Foreign Trade can release the inventory but it is the minister who has to approve the sales. Though he believes he has the legal authority to approve the new round of sales, he wants legal clarity.

Meanwhile, farmers are threatening to take the government to court due to delay in payments under the rice-pledging programme.

Prasit Buncheuy, president of the Thai Farmers Association, said rice farmers were facing serious financial trouble as they had not received the money due to them under the pledging scheme. After negotiations, the government told the farmers to expect payments around the middle of next month.

Prom Maboonchuai, chairman of the Farmers Council in Suphan Buri province, pointed out that the villagers had to meet their obligations for scheduled loan and interest payments.

The Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives is ready to extend more loans to its members on a group collateral basis at 7-per-cent interest. While this is an attempt to provide relief to financially troubled farmers, it could also be seen as increasing their debt burden.

At a branch of the bank in the province, about 1,527 farmers were unable to get disbursement for the rice pledging.

About 10,000 farmers are expected to suffer the same predicament in the remaining nine branches of the bank in the province.

UNCERTAINTY FOR MATERIALS FIRMS

The uncertainty over the Bt2-trillion transport-infrastructure project and the Bt350-billion water management programme after the dissolution of Parliament might affect the construction-material business, which has already increased its production capacity to serve the mega-projects, said Kritsada Janchamrassaeng, vice president of the Thai Contractors Association.

If these projects do not go ahead as planned, the industry will have to bear this inventory cost, Kritsada said. If so, prices of some construction materials could fall by 5 per cent next year.

NEW TAX RATES NOT FINALISED

The Finance Ministry has not yet finalised whether new rates for personal income tax will be effective by the end of this year, said Rangsan Sriworasart, permanent secretary of the |ministry.

If the new rates are not made effective by year-end, individuals will have to pay the existing rates.

He said the Fiscal Policy Office had determined that gross domestic product this year would expand by only 3 per cent, lower than its previous estimate of 3.7 per cent, as the overall of economy had been affected by the political tension.

Government budget disbursements have been delayed by the seizure of the ministry by protesters, he added.

PTTEP SETS UP BRAZIL INVESTMENTS SUBSIDIARY

PTT Exploration and Production has established a subsidiary, PTTEP Brazil Investments in Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Ltda, to carry out business related to exploration and production in the South American country.

The subsidiary was established on registered capital of 53.5 million reals (Bt743 million), consisting of 53,499,999 quotas held by PTTEP Brazil Investment BV and 1 quota held by PTTEP Netherlands Holding Cooperatie UA.

IKEA WARNS OF CORD HAZARD

Ikea is urging all customers who have an Ikea Smila wall-mounted lamp to check immediately that the lamp and cord are out of reach of children when in a cot or playpen. Ensure that the cord is securely fastened to the wall, as loose lamp cords can present a strangulation hazard to infants and young children.

Ikea has received a report of a tragic accident in Scotland, where an infant in a cot died after getting entangled with the cord of a Smila wall-mounted lamp. No reports of injury have been received in Thailand.

Customers are asked to proceed to the exchange and returns department or call customer services at 02 708 7999 extension 4004 to receive a repair kit free of charge containing a warning label, safety instructions and self-adhesive fasteners for fixing the lamp cord to the wall.

Ikea reminded customers that any corded product such as a window covering or blind could present a strangulation hazard.

Accessible cords should always be kept out of reach of young children, it said.

Ikea said it apologised for any inconvenience this might cause.




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