Farmers end protest in Phitsanulok

PHITSANULOK ― Rice farmers on Tuesday agreed to end their rally at the Indochina intersection in Muang district after a two-day protest demanding the caretaker government pay them for crops pledged under the government's subsidy scheme.

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Around 150 farmers led by Chatree Ampool shut the Indochina intersection at tambon Samo Khae on Monday to demand caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pay farmers owed money through the rice-pledging scheme. 

The protest continued into Tuesday, when the number of the demonstrators fell to 50 and the intersection was reopened to vehicular traffic. It was the second rally in the area. Around 500 farmers blocked off the same intersection last Thursday. 

The group agreed to disperse in the evening after Phitsanulok governor Rapee Pongbuppakij promised to provide immediate assistance to the affected farmers and a clear answer on what is happening with their rice payments by Friday, Jan 31.

Mr Chatree said he would mobilise farmers across the province to permanently shut down the intersection on Friday at 10am if Mr Rapee fails to provide them with an acceptable solution by Friday.

In an emotional address to protesters, Mr Chatree said both local red-shirts and community leaders tried to pressure him to end the protest, on orders from high-level officials.

The red-shirts threatened to hurt his family if he continued to lead the rally seeking money for unpaid farmers including for himself, he said. 

“I am concerned about my family but I cannot just stop demanding because all our fellow farmers are in distress,” Mr Chatree said. 

At one point, Mr Chatree burst into tears while addressing the crowd. A number of protesters also started crying.

Several tearful farmers shouted angrily that they had no money to buy food or to send their children to school because the government has failed to pay them for rice sold under its subsidy scheme. They said the situation had also forced them to borrow money from loan sharks.

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