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Farmers can get normal loans too: BAAC exec

Money presented to family of woman who took her own life

Farmers awaiting payment for rice submitted to the government pledging scheme could get loans of up to Bt100,000 to help them avoid difficulty and prevent them turning to loan sharks, according to the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co-operatives. The loans are not related to the rice scheme, but just part of the bank's normal services.

Meanwhile, the Mental Health Department has sent teams of psychologists to visit the homes of eight farmers who reportedly took their own lives over lack of payment for rice sold to the pledging scheme. The department expected to learn more about the farmers' deaths by Monday.

BAAC executives yesterday presented the family of farmer Boonma Sa-thong-uan, who on Tuesday hanged herself in Kamphaeng Phet's Klong Lan district, with Bt30,000 in assistance money.

Bank public relations and communications director Peerapong Kamchuen and other executives attended the funeral yesterday for Boonma, who reportedly committed suicide after having suffering severe stress due to the months-long overdue payment from the rice-pledging scheme. Boonma's cremation will be held today.

Peerapong said the BAAC had a debt-restructuring interest-reducing project that would help Boonma's husband Chalerm Sa-thong-uan, who also has a loan with the bank. It would give him a grace period until March 2015.

Meanwhile, the deputy director-general for Mental Health Panpimol Wipulakorn told a press conference on Thursday the department sent teams to visit the homes of eight farmers, who reportedly committed suicide over the scheme's overdue payments - to investigate the real reasons behind their deaths.

She said the department should be able to conclude the cause of suicide for the first seven cases by Monday, but it would take a while to gather information about the eighth case before a conclusion was drawn.

Panpimol said the visits were necessary because there could be many factors that contribute to a suicide and an economic problem may just be one reason. She said that many cases reportedly show some signs of suicide risk such as stress or depression. When such people encounter additional pressure or an economic-related stress, the risk of suicide rose.

She also warned that news about suicides could encourage copycat behaviour by people at risk.

News reports must be well-rounded and show all factors because some people may already have chronic illness plus stress over money problems. "It's not that you have no money then you must kill yourself for that reason," she said.

Panpimol urged people to watch others close to them for suicide risk signs, to seek advice from Public Health teams at hospitals or to seek care from public health volunteers.

She also urged farmers awaiting payments to jointly solve their problem step-by-step, rather than thinking this as the end of the world.

Deaths so far...

Eight suicides or stress-induced deaths this year attributed to lack of payments for rice submitted under the government pledging scheme:

January 9: A 59-year-old male farmer in Phichit's Muang district (fatal shock and high-blood pressure);

January 26: A 60-year-old male farmer in Roi Et's Muang district (hanging);

January 27: A 46-year-old male farmer in Si Sa Ket's Khukhan district (hanging);

January 28: A 43-year-old male worker in Buri Ram's Nong Hong district (hanging);

February 7: An 81-year-old female farmer in Kamphaeng Phet's Muang district (fatal shock and heart failure);

February 10: A 38-year-old female farmer in Sukhothai's Kong Krailat district (hanging);

February 11: A 42-year-old female farmer in Kamphaeng Phet's Klong Lan district (hanging);

February 12: A 42-year-old male farmer in Chachoengsao's Ratchasan district (drank pesticide).


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