Following a clash between rubber planters and police in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Democrat Party deputy leader Thaworn Senneam said yesterday he would join the protest - as he is a farmer also affected by the drop in rubber prices.
The rubber planters’ network said they would widen their protests on September 3 to “shut down the country” in protest against the plummeting price for the crop.
Responding to an accusation that the opposition Democrat Party was behind the protest, which led to Friday’s clash that left dozens injured, Thaworn said he was also an affected farmer.
Most southern MPs own rubber plantations, so they were affected and had a right to join this protest, he said. He added that many Pheu Thai Party MPs were also rubber plantation owners, but failed to fight and had let other farmers down.
Later, at 11.30am, the rubber planters’ network hosted a press conference at a coffee shop near the Democrat Party head office. Nawaranont Ananwannakorn, a leading member from the East-Central regions, commented that the Nakhon Si Thammarat rubber growers had acted hastily in blocking Asia Highway No 41 without waiting for the network to meet and agree on expanding their movement on September 3.
He explained that they had agreed to block main roads in all four regions on that day; 5,000 growers would block a road in Uttaradit; 30,000 growers in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Sikhio district, while the southern farmers would block a road in Surat Thani.
In the Central and Eastern region, about 15,000 farmers would rally outside Government House, he added.
He also urged the government not to crack down on these protesters or the situation could escalate and become worse than what happened in Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Cha-uat district.
If the government wished to avoid such protests, they should invite the leading members to negotiate before September 3, he said.
Calling for justice and urging the government not to treat farmers of one particular crop favourably, such as rice, while ignoring other farmers, he insisted the protest was not politically motivated.
Meanwhile, protesters in Nakhon Si Thammarat continued to block the road yesterday amid tension after the riot police’s crackdown attempt on Friday. Pictures taken during the clash were also made into vinyl banners, while eight people arrested on Friday were released temporarily.
Police were ordered to withdraw from the area while nearby police booths were not manned because the protesters were still angry. It was reported that the PM’s deputy secretary-general Thawat Boonfeung would heed their demand yesterday, but the farmers were still waiting at press time.
In related news, Nakhon Si Thammarat Governor Wiroj Jiwarangsan said he had instructed officials to probe a rumour circulating in social media that a police letter was sent to radio stations ahead of the protest crackdown to tell motorists to avoid the area, which was occupied by a demonstration of “white mask” protesters and rubber planters.