RUBBER FARMERS in Chumphon province yesterday threatened to launch a mass rally if police forcibly disperse the ongoing protest by fellow farmers in neighbouring Prachuap Khiri Khan province.
Local politicians, who are leaders of the rubber farmers’ group, made this decision despite promising to provincial authorities on Sunday that they would not organise any mass protests. When asked about the format of the rally, the leaders said they would consult leaders of rubber farmers in the South first, adding that the protests would possibly be held at government offices first and that roadblocks would be used as a last resort.
Some 1,500 police officers have been stationed in Prachuap Khiri Khan to possibly break up the rally of 400 farmers at a key intersection in Bang Saphan district. This move came after the leaders met Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnog and failed to strike a deal for increasing rubber prices.
Pracha gave the Prachuap Khiri Khan protesters until 6pm yesterday to have their representatives meet a tripartite committee or "measures enabled under a law |on rescue and recovery missions |to ensure law and order would |be adopted in response to the protest".
The minister said rubber farmers, represented by a Nakhon Si Thammarat-based 35-leader committee, had agreed to a price of Bt90 per kilo of rubber at a meeting last month. He added that two of the 35 leaders who did not accept the Bt90 price were behind the Bang Saphan rally.
The protesters have set up several roadblocks on Phetkasem Road, which is the main thoroughfare in the South. Police have been directing the traffic to an alternative route and Pracha said the blocking of this road would not be tolerated.