Farmers reopen Phetkasem Road

A group of western provinces farmers who had blocked Phetkasem Road in Ratchaburi province since Saturday have agreed to lift their blockade, allowing two-way traffic to resume on the south-bound highway.

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Rama II Road remained blocked by protesting rice farmers at Wang Manao intersection in Pak Tho, Ratchaburi.

The Phetkasem farmers have been demanding the government pay the money owing them for the paddy they had delivered under the rice-pledging scheme several months ago.

Rawee Rungruang, a group leader, said the farmers were well aware the government had  neither the money nor the means to pay them. The blockade was a symbolic act to show they are really in financial trouble.

They also felt sympathy for travellers and were aware that vegetable vendors rely on the highway for distribution of their goods to markets.

“We backed down because we don’t want to cause trouble for others and create more conflicts,” he said.

Mr Rawee added he wanted the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) to allow farmers to borrow against pledging contracts so they can prepare ground for a new crop and repay the loan sharks they had been forced to turn to while waiting for the outstanding payments.

The farmers also want the government to subsidise the interest for these loans, and the BAAC could deduct their dues once the money is transferred.

He did not rule out moving their protest to Bangkok, but said the demonstration would be on their own terms and would not turn political. Talks were being held with farmers in other provinces and a decision on future action would be known on Thursday. 

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