EC rejects rice-pledging loan request

The Election Commission on Tuesday resolved not to consider the caretaker government’s request that it be allowed to seek additional loans worth 130 billion baht to pay farmers owed money under the rice-pledging scheme, saying it has no authority to do so.

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The EC’s decision came after caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong met the five election commissioners to clarify the government's plan to borrow money from financial institutions to pay farmers involved in the scheme. 

Many rice farmers are angry that payments for rice sold to government have been delayed, sparking protests across the country. Some have demanded that government pay up or return rice sold into the initiative.

Ministers are unable to sign off funds to pay farmers, because the current government is running the country in a caretaker capacity and must defer major spending decisions to the EC. 

But EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong said the commission has no choice but to turn down the caretaker government's request to borrow money to pay farmers.

He said the law states that a caretaker cabinet is prohibited from approving any work or project, or creating a binding commitment upon the next government, and shall not exploit state resources or personnel for any act which may affect an election.

He added that Section 181 of the constitution is clear that no exceptions can be made to this, so the EC authority has no authority to consider the loan request.

Mr Puchong said whether to proceed with further loans to finance the rice-pledging scheme is the government’s decision, but warned that it must take responsibility for its actions if an agency rules in future that it violated the constitution. 

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