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Rice-Pledging Scheme

Defiant farmers maintain blockades, draw up petition

WHILE ONE group of rice farmers today brings tractors and trucks to rally outside the Commerce Ministry in Nonthaburi - to pressure for long overdue payments from the rice-pledging scheme - another group from the north will submit a royal petition this morning.

Meanwhile, rice farmers from western provinces are continuing their Rama II Road blockade at the Wang Manao intersection in Ratchaburi's Pak Tho district, which began on February 1.

Protest leader Rawee Rungreung said they would also rally at the ministry to demand answers about their pledged rice and overdue payments.

Rawee said the farmers had to do something because they were severely affected.

The rice-growing season was approaching but farmers who normally earned money twice a year, according to seasonal rice harvests, had no money to pay for their rice-growing costs as well as household and personal expenses.

Rawee insisted this wasn't a politically motivated move and the farmers wouldn't completely relocate their rally from Rama II Road to the ministry.

Rather, they would send some demonstrators while the rest remained at the southbound road.

He said his group would suspend their movement to gather names of the farmers affected by the scheme to submit a petition to the Bureau of Royal Household.

Their woes came from the caretaker government's action, hence the caretaker government must solve it, he said.

Some 500 farmers from Phichit, Nakhon Sawan, Sukhothai, Kamphaeng Phet and Phitsanulok for the third day yesterday continued to camp on Asian Highway 117 near a branch of the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives at Po Sai Ngam intersection in Phichit’s Bung Narang district.

Group leader Prakasit Jamjumrus, who is president of Tambon Tai Nam Administration Organisation in Phichit's Pho Thale district, said they had gathered 1,000 names for the royal appeal. Some 200 farmers and protest leaders would travel to Bangkok later last night to join other farmers in submitting the petition to the bureau this morning, he said.

Another protest leader, Manu Maneechote, said that after the 200-strong group departed for Bangkok, the remaining farmers would clear away the rally site on Asian Highway 117. They would later discuss the next move after those submitting the petition returned to Phichit, he added.

In Kanchanaburi's Tha Muang district, some 300 rice farmers from tambon Nong Khao blocked an intersection on Asian Highway 324 with tractors, 10-wheel trucks and a pick-up truck as well as five tents yesterday morning.

Deputy Governor Suriyan Kanchanasilpa and senior officials tried to negotiate with them but they continued rallying at press time.

Ten kilometres away in Phanom Thuan district, local farmers held another road blockade at a three-pronged intersection.

They demanded by February 12 the caretaker government honour pledged rice payments of at least 80 per cent of the amount stated on each farmer's rice-pledging certificate.

The group also wanted the caretaker government to help farmers in talking with their creditors including BAAC, commercial banks and agricultural co-ops, because they didn't want creditors taking away their tractors or tools.






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