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Rice farmers take plea to HM

FARMERS YESTERDAY appealed to His Majesty the King for help after the government's rice-pledging scheme drove them into debt.

For many months, the scheme has been postponing payments to the farmers for their pledged crop, leaving many farmers desperate.

Their street rallies have hit many provinces across the country, as the scheme still owes money to more than a million farmers.

Prakasit Jamjaras, who has been leading farmers in one such rally, finally decided to turn to His Majesty for help. He submitted the appeal to the Royal Household Bureau in the morning, following which his group called off its road blockade in Phichit's Bung Narang district.

"We will decide later how to proceed," he said. The petition was signed by 3,000 farmers. The bureau's official offered moral support to Prakasit and about 120 farmers who travelled to Bangkok with him from Phichit, Nakhon Sawan, Sukhothai, Kamphaeng Phet and Phitsanulok.

Many other farmers showed up at the National Anti-Corruption Commission to demand an investigation into the scheme. Winai Lhamnu, the leader, said he wondered where the money from the scheme had gone. "The government should take responsibility; it launched this scheme," he said.

As one of Pheu Thai Party's populist policies, the scheme promises to buy rice from farmers for much higher than the market price.

Winai said the administration could not simply claim that it was unable to secure a loan as a caretaker government to continue financing the scheme, which has incurred massive losses in recent years.

"Why didn't it make all the preparations before dissolving the House?"

There are also grounds to suspect that the scheme is mired in graft.

More than 1,000 farmers blocked the Asian Highway in Angthong's Chaiyo district. In Kanchanaburi, more than 200 farmers barricaded the Kanchanaburi-Suphan Buri Road in Tha Muang district for a second day. In Ratchaburi's Pak Tho district, Rama II Road has been impassable for many days. It is a main artery linking the South to other regions.

Police have failed to persuade farmers to open some traffic lanes for motorists. Police presence also sparked concerns that the authorities might try to disperse the protesters.


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