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We want our rice back, plus compensation, angry farmers say

A GROUP of farmers in Phitsanulok are demanding that the government return paddy submitted to the government's rice pledging scheme, plus financial compensation for delayed payments for rice.

Instead of waiting for payment of Bt15,000 per tonne for paddy from the tainted scheme, some 150 farmers said yesterday they now want to get their paddy back to sell to normal rice millers, who are ready to immediately give them Bt9,000 per tonne.

"And because of the delay in payments under the scheme, the government should pay affected farmers Bt3,279 per rai of paddy fields as compensation," said Chatree Ampoon, a farmer leader in Phrom Phiram district.

The government has repeatedly postponed payments to farmers who participated in the scheme in recent months. The delay has forced many farmers to turn to loan sharks to get money.

Some 150 farmers rallied at the Indochina Intersection in Phitsanulok yesterday to press for their demands.

Protests by farmers were also being staged in several other provinces.

Kittisak Rattanawaraha, who chairs the Network of Northern Farmers, said if the government failed to pay farmers, it should no longer stay in power.

"We will rise against the government," he warned, adding that if his group managed to get money for a trip to Bangkok, they might join the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) in its efforts to overthrow the current administration.

The PDRC has demanded that the caretaker government resign to pave way for reform before an election. Its supporters have now occupied major intersections in the capital.

In Tak, a number of farmers have joined hands with PDRC supporters in blocking the City Hall. Lawyers showed up there yesterday also to help farmers prepare lawsuits against relevant authorities over the troubled rice scheme, which has also incurred massive financial losses.

In Nakhon Ratchasima, farmers from some 20 provinces in the Northeast gathered yesterday to prepare their next move, after the government failed to respond to their demand last Friday for immediate payment.

The government is now struggling to secure a loan to finance the scheme, one of the most controversial of Pheu Thai Party's populist policies.




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