Yingluck promises help for rice farmers

The caretaker government is working hard to help rice farmers suffering as a result of delayed rice-pledging payments, caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Thursday.

In a message posted on her Facebook page, Ms Yingluck said she had directed the ministries of finance and commerce to secure funds to quickly pay farmers who have still not been paid for rice pledged under the scheme last year.

Because of its caretaker position, the government has limited authority to handle the situation because the law prohibits it from making any deal that could create a debt burden on the new administration, she said.

The caretaker premier insisted that her government recognised the importance of rice farmers and said the rice-pledging policy was implemented with the aim of improving their income, stimulating the economy at grass-roots level and reducing social inequality.

Many foreign governments also have similar policies to subsidise their countries’ main crops and improve living standards of farmers, she said.

However, the country is now in a special situation, said Ms Yingluck, since government had to dissolve the House of Representatives due to ongoing political turbulence.

The House dissolution limits the legal authority of the caretaker government to push ahead with its policies, including the rice scheme, she said.

“Relevant state agencies have been trying hard to resolve problems of affected rice farmers," she said.

“The Ministry of Finance is trying to acquire loans from financial institutions and the Ministry of Commerce is in a process of releasing rice in stockpiles to generate funds to make the rice payments."

Meanwhile, rice growers from the West, Central Plains and lower part of the North are rallying in front of the Ministry of Commerce to pressure the caretaker government to make overdue rice payments immediately, led by chairman of the Thai Farmers Association Prasit Boonchoey.

People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters from Nonthaburi and the Network of Students and People for Thailand's Reform (NSPTR) are also taking part in the farmers’ rally at the ministry.

Mr Prasit said rice farmers have not yet been paid for rice pledged more than six months ago and need the payments as soon as possible - regardless of where the money comes from.

Farmers’ co-leaders want talks with the caretaker commerce minister and his permanent secretary to jointly find a way to resolve the problem, he said.

Nonthaburi police were deployed inside the Ministry of Commerce building compound and nearby areas to maintain law and order.

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