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Rice farmers from Phichit, other provinces demand payment from government

RICE FARMERS from Phichit and nearby provinces yesterday laid siege to the Bueng Na Rang District Office to demand long-overdue payment for their last crop under the government's controversial pledging scheme, while others continued demonstrating on a major highway.

In Ratchaburi, farmers have threatened to block a key crossing of major routes linking |the South and the Central region in a few |days.

Some of them vowed to head to Bangkok to launch protests after they gathered at a rice development centre in Muang district and handed their sale certificates to Walit Charoensombat, their leader.

Walit said he would include the certificates as proof of sales in petitions to the PM's Office and Commerce Ministry for immediate payment.

He said 27,000 farmers were registered for the scheme in Ratchaburi, but fewer than 4,000 had received money from the government.

The farmers were severely short of cash to cover costs for the next harvest.

"We have no money to even buy rice seeds and other farm supplies while shouldering debts incurred through non-payment of the rice-pledging money," he said.

In Phichit, the farmers said they would also call on local civil servants not to work while they would try to enter the compound and seize it. Police were stationed around the compound to prevent intrusion.

Governor Surachai Khan-asa said negotiations with the farmers were in progress, and the farmers were asked to halt their blockade.

Surachai said what was worrying was that the rice-pledging scheme and payment were policies of the caretaker national government. What provincial authorities could do now was only to provide winter clothing and medical care to the protesters.


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