Rice farmers rally against government

Rice growers in the North on Friday blocked the Asian highway in Phichit demanding government payment for rice sold under the rice-pledging scheme, while farmers in Buriram surrounded the provincial government complex for the same reason.

Around 3,000 farmers from Phichit, Sukhothai, Pitsanulok, Kamphaengphet and Nakhon Sawan used farm trucks to completely block two inbound lanes of the Asian highway at Pho Sai-ngam intersection in Bueng Narang district, northern Phichit.

The farmers demanded immediate payment for rice pledged under the government's rice subsidy scheme and threatened to intensify the rally unless their demand is met today.

Police were deployed near the rally site to direct traffic and maintain law and order. They advised motorists to avoid using the Asian Highway near the Pho Sai-ngam intersection and to use other alternative routes instead.

In the northeastern province of Buriram, thousands of rice growers from 23 districts and supporters of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) sealed off the gates to the provincial government complex on Highway No 266 Buriram-Samed in Muang district.

The growers claimed they have still not been paid for rice pledged four months ago, and said they have no money to service loans borrowed from banks and loan sharks.

More than 100 policemen and territorial defence volunteers were deployed inside and around the provincial government complex to ensure peace and order.

Rampueng Parinram, 62, a rice grower from tambon Kasang in Muang district, said he joined the rally because he wants government to pay him the money he is owed.

He argued that government should not have encouraged farmers to join its rice scheme if it does not have the funds to pay for the initative. If they had not joined the scheme, farmers could have sold their rice to millers to earn money to pay for debts at the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, Mr Rampueng said.

Reports said a total of 50,313 farmers who sold rice under the scheme have still not been paid for rice with a combined worth of 4.17 billion baht.

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