Farmers threaten Krungthai Bank

Rice growers on Thursday threatened to withdraw their deposits from Krungthai Bank (KTB) if it fails to offer loans to the rice scheme to meet overdue payments to farmers, reports said.

Wichian Puanglamjiag, chairman of the Thai Farmers Association, said farmers are suffering because the  caretaker government has no money to make payments for rice they pledged several months ago.

The farmers have no money for daily expenses and cannot make overdue debt payments, he said.

“Farmers understand well that the government has been trying hard to find money to make the rice payments,  but no commercial banks or other financial institutions have offered the needed loans.

“This is because they are afraid of the protest leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC),  Suthep Thuagsuban, who had threatened that banks that offer loans to the government would face a problem.

“It’s the rice farmers who face negative consequences as a result,” Mr Wichian said.

Suffering farmers from 15 provinces in the Central plains and the lower part of the North, who rallied in Nakhon Sawan on Wednesday, had realised that the banks were afraid of Mr Suthep when they submitted a petition to branches of commercial banks in the province asking them to offer loans to the government’s rice scheme. Most of them did not come out to accept the letter, he said.

Only an employee of the Bank of Ayudhaya’s Nakhon Sawan branch came out to receive their letter, and failed to give a clear answer, saying that approvals of loans were decided by the bank's head office in Bangkok.

What made the farmers feel bad was the screen that appeared on Krungthai Bank ATMs showing a picture of KTB president Woraphak Thanyawong and a statement that,  “Krungthai Bank insists that it has not approved loans for the rice scheme”, the farmers’ leader said.

He viewed the message as an aggravation.

Mr Wichian said as a people’s bank, the KTB, in which the government though the Ministry of Finance is the largest shareholder, should offer loans to the government to help ease the farmers' problems.

If KTB refused to make loans because of a threat by the PDRC, farmers would withdraw all their money from it and deposit it instead in other banks that help the farmers, he said.

He called on the management of KTB to sympathise with the rice farmers.

 PDRC spokesman Ekanat Prompan denied as baseless an accusation by the Pheu Thai Party that PDRC obstructed banks from providing loans for the rice scheme.

Financial institutions’ refusal to offer loans to the government was more like to be because they thought it could  be unlawful and they have to protect their depositors' funds, he said.

Mr Ekanat asked the government and Pheu Thai to refrain from slandering the PDRC.

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