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Rice-Pledging Scheme

Stress drives another farmer to suicide

Bigger protests planned over delay in payments; govt to sell 10 million tonnes of rice

AS PROTESTING farmers eye organising a bigger rally in Bangkok tomorrow over the government's failure to pay them under the rice-pledging scheme, another farmer has reportedly committed suicide due to financial stress.

The farmer took his life in Pathum Thani yesterday. His death is believed to be the ninth such suicide.

Deputy Minister of Commerce Yanyong Phuangrach, meanwhile, inspected a pledged-rice warehouse in Ayutthaya and revealed the caretaker government planned to sell 10 million tonnes of pledged rice.

He also affirmed the nationwide rice storage facilities were transparently managed and still had complete rice stocks. Rice in 10 warehouses had been damaged by fires or high humidity, he said.

Farmer Anan Saiprayong, 49, was found hanging at his home in Pathum Thani's Muang district at 11am.

His wife Chanthana told police that Anan headed a farmers' group that bought Bt600,000 in seeds, fertilisers and pesticides from an investor to fund the next rice-growing season while waiting for the rice-pledging scheme's overdue payments.

She said stress over the debt combined with not being able to pay his home mortgage possibly led him to kill himself.

In the meantime, Kittisak Rattanawaraha, speaking for northern farmers, said some 5,000 farmers would be mobilised from the North, West and Northeast to join the farmers' rally outside the Ministry of Commerce in Bangkok tomorrow.

The other group, made up of farmers from Phichit, Nakhon Sawan, Sukhothai, Kamphaeng Phet and Phitsanulok, said they would not join others yet, until a meeting of protest leaders is held on February 24-25 to determine their next move.

In related news, the Lawyers Council of Thailand, representing affected farmers, has started documenting farmers' complaints in Phrom Phiram, Phitsanulok, in a bid to sue the caretaker Prime Minister Yimgluck Shinawatra and others involved in the rice-pledging scheme. Some 100 farmers have filed complaints.

The council's Phitsanulok branch president, Saroj Chansiri, said the organisation's provincial branches would gather complaints and documents to demand justice for the affected farmers.


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