Abhisit pleads farmers' case in meet with PM

national September 26, 2011 00:00

By The Nation

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Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday personally handed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra a letter asking that the government help flood-hit farmers who registered for a proposed income-guarantee scheme that was shelved when the Democrat Party lo

Abhisit encountered Yingluck during their first official public appearance together at an anti-corruption event in Lumpini Park.

Abhisit said that during his visits to flood victims in several provinces, many farmers told him they had either lost their crops entirely or been forced to harvest and sell them early to escape imminent flooding. So, they would not be entitled to participate in the Pheu Thai government's rice-pledging scheme, which will kick off on October 7.

"We are not concerned if the government scraps the income-guarantee scheme, but we want the government to pay an allowance to farmers who have registered for help,'' Abhisit said.

While the Democrats campaigned on a promise to launch the income guarantee, Pheu Thai's rice-pledging plan promises farmers as much as Bt15,000 per tonne in a bid to boost prices.

Yingluck's government has vowed to push ahead with the scheme, despite strong criticism that the scheme is prone to corruption, costly due to high rents and runs the risk of stored rice being left to rot.

Yingluck agreed to look into the problem, instructing Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Kittirat na Ranong to consider Abhisit's proposal.

Abhisit asked the premier if the government has any measures in place to prevent traders, millers and exporters from pledging rice from neighbouring countries.

He said farmers would not benefit from the rice-pledging scheme because they had rushed to sell their rice for fear of being wiped out by floods. Though the government has extended the scheme to February 1 next year, they would not be able to cultivate rice by then, as they would have to wait for floods to recede.

Yingluck and Abhisit were asked by the organiser of the anti-corruption campaign to sit together on the same bench. While initially cool towards each other, Yingluck broke the ice by wai-ing the more senior Abhisit. Then they briefly talked and took a walk as part of the anti-corruption campaign from Lumpini Park to Silom Road. They did not talk during the walk and Yingluck concluded her walk before the rally ended.

In Nakhon Ratchasima, meanwhile, some 500 employees of over 40 agencies joined forces for the anti-corruption campaign, going on a walk in the city to boost public awareness of the evil of corruption.

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