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Rice farmers join PDRC in Phichit blockade

For the first time in a week-long rally demanding immediate payment for rice sold under the government pledging scheme, farmers in Phichit yesterday joined supporters of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) to block the provincial city hall and prevent civil servants from performing their duties.

Farmers from Phichit and nearby provinces blockaded Bung Narang district office on Sunday evening, while those blocking a key junction in the district agreed to make way for traffic and moved to join protesters at the district office.

The farmers and members of the PDRC padlocked the city hall and were continuing a blockade as of press time last night.

The Phichit-based farmers, along with those from Nakhon Sawan, Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet, have also signed a complaint addressed to His Majesty the King.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 farmers gathered outside city hall in Chiang Rai and demanded immediate payment for their long-overdue subsidy. Protest leader Theethawat Sitthisom said the rally was peaceful and not linked to the PDRC movement.

The head of the Chiang Rai commerce office, Chalermphol Phongchababnapha, told farmers he had learnt that the caretaker government was trying to obtain a loan of Bt130 billion before the Bt2.93 billion owed to local farmers could be paid.

Separately, staff members of certain Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives branches wore black yesterday to protest against the caretaker government's alleged attempt to take over BAAC-owned assets in order to subsidise its controversial, loss-making rice-pledging scheme.

Suthep Donpanya, director of the BAAC branch in Phitsanulok, said staff members had worn black in a symbolic protest against the alleged reallocation of funds. He said most local customers had withdrawn their deposits in a panic, and staff were ready to join the BAAC unionists' campaign against the government's moves.

Staff at the Udon Thani BAAC branch did not dress in black, but they also voiced opposition to the government's alleged bid to seize bank assets. A source said that customers, who were not farmers, had already started withdrawing their deposits, with one of them taking out Bt30 million in one go.


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