July 08, 2014 00:00
By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
Management of stockpiles in place
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has speeded up inspections of the state’s rice stockpiles and expects to complete them by the end of this month before implementing a plan to release the stocks to the market.
Meanwhile, two new acting directors-general of the Commerce Ministry’s Foreign Trade and Internal Trade departments were appointed and they have set sights mainly on managing the rice stockpiles.
A meeting yesterday chaired by General Pratinant Saihasadee on behalf of junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha was given a presentation on the progress of inspecting the rice stockpiles in provincial granaries after officials were sent to the sites over the past week. The inspections aim to determine the quantity and quality of state rice stocks.
According to the inspection committee, it found some rice was missing and massive deterioration in quality. It said it was committed to completing its inspections by the end of this month and providing a summary on its findings at each granary nationwide. How much rice is damaged would also be revealed.
“The outcome of the inspection will be submitted to the NCPO chief for consideration. Those who are found to have been involved in corruption [within the rice-stockpiling system] will be prosecuted,” said a reporter citing the meeting’s resolution.
NCPO deputy chief General Chatchai Sarikalaya, who is in charge of economic affairs, has assigned the Commerce Ministry to lay out a rice-release plan, which would also be sent to the junta chief for consideration.
This follows a meeting on Saturday he held with operators of the rice industry, including millers. That meeting concluded that the release of stockpiled rice would be handled to ensure that it does not affect the market price.
ML Panadda Diskul, permanent secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, is chairman of the inspection committee. In his latest report on Sunday, he said 24 teams of inspection officials had been sent to 12 provinces where there are granaries storing state-owned rice. At some of the granaries, rice was found to have gone missing. Moreover, the inspectors found the quality of some stocks had deteriorated. Yesterday in Phichit province, inspectors discovered that 15,000 tonnes of 5 per cent broken white rice was missing from four of 13 silos. A representative of the Public Warehouse Organisation filed a lawsuit against KTB Agro Co, owner of granaries housing the missing rice, alleging embezzlement.
Commerce Ministry permanent secretary Chutima Bunyapraphasara appointed Duangporn Rodphaya acting director-general of the Foreign Trade Department and Jintana Chaiyawonnagal as acting director-general of the Internal Trade Department last week, replacing Surasak Riangkrul and Somchart Soithong respectively.
Surasak was reassigned as ministry inspector-general, while Somchart has not yet received a new appointment.
Duangporn said clarifying how much rice is in the stockpiles and managing them would be her priority in her new post. Previously a ministry adviser, she said she would need some time to work on the rice issue and would soon reveal information to the public, as rice stocks are a hot topic for people right now.
Jintana said the Internal Trade Department was investigating the information on rice stocks under the instruction of the NCPO. She said she would call for a meeting of senior officials within a few days.
The Internal Trade Department was directly responsible for the rice-pledging scheme of the elected government ousted by the junta. It was also responsible for managing costs of other farm produce. Jintana was previously deputy director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department.
Surasak and Somchart have both denied that there was corruption in the rice-pledging scheme and insisted they both carefully administered the project transparently.