January 29, 2014 00:00
By Mongkhonchaowarat Tangmangmee
INSTEAD OF benefiting farmers, the government's rice-pledging scheme has ironically driven some into hopelessness.
At least one committed suicide on Sunday apparently because the scheme has repeatedly postponed payments for his pledged rice in recent months, leaving him without money to support himself.
Another farmer put his tractor up for sale yesterday, saying he was losing hope to keep on going. Samruay Palee, from the upper Central region, said yesterday that he was looking for someone to buy his farm machine.
“I have to borrow to cover daily expenses now. How can I keep this tractor, which requires instalment payments of Bt145,000 a year?” he said.
The rice-pledging scheme, one of Pheu Thai Party’s populist policies, offered a generous sum of Bt15,000 per tonne of pledged rice, a rate much higher than what millers offer.
However, the programme has run up massive financial losses over the past few years.
The caretaker government is struggling to secure loans to continue funding it – though the problems began looming before the House was dissolved.
Some 1.4 million farmers are said to be owed money under the scheme.
This failure to pay farmers for rice submitted up to four months ago has resulted in protests in several places in the Northeast and Central regions over the past few weeks.
In Phitsanulok, some 100 farmers had rallied at Indochina Intersection for days.
Samruay, who was supposed to get Bt350,000 under the scheme months ago, is one of them. He said: “I used to think I would work in paddy fields like my parents for the rest of my life. My parents were able to sell rice to buy land and had their house built. But the government’s rice-pledging scheme has made me think twice. My life is in trouble now.”
Another farmer, Sairoong Nakwang, said she had to pawn almost all her utensils because the government kept delaying payment.
“I need money to support my children’s education,” she said. She had slept on the street to demand payment alongside other farmers for days. Her group is demanding that the government pay up by January 31. If their demand is not met, they will stage the rally.