Kittiratt flees angry farmers

Disgruntled farmers on Monday evening booed and threw objects at caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, after he failed to give a clear answer on when the authorities would begin paying growers for rice sold under the pledging scheme.

The incident occurred after a one hour meeting to discuss long-overdue rice payments between Mr Kittiratt and farmers' representatives led by Rawee Rungruang at the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence. 

Mr Rawee, who is acting chairman of Thai Farmers Network, said farmers accepted the government’s offer of paying an average of four billion baht per day to farmers owed cash, but wanted Mr Kittiratt to give assurances on the exact dates of payments. 

Mr Rawee asked Mr Kittiratt to address protesting farmers in person outside the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence. 

He admitted that some farmers support the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) but asked them to stay calm while listening to Mr Kittiratt’s explanation of when they would be paid. 

Mr Kittiratt got off to a bad start when he kept the farmers waiting for more than 10 minutes because he was giving a live telephone interview to Sorayuth Suthassanachinda for the popular Ruang Den Yen Nee news programme on Channel 3.

When he finally addressed rice growers, the minister repeated that the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) would pay an average of four billion baht per day to unpaid farmers but did not say when payments would start, merely insisting that every farmer involved in the rice-pledging scheme would receive the full amount owed to them based on their rice-pledging documents. 

At one point, Mr Kittiratt was interrupted by farmers who demanded he say exactly when the payments would be made, as opposed to talking about the procedural side of the scheme. But he could not answer the crucial question, prompting protesters to boo him and throw water bottles, fruits and shoes in his direction. 

Some protesters tried to approach him and shouted “get out, get out” as Mr Kittiratt quickly concluded his address. "That is all I have to clarify. Thank you," he said, before fleeing the scene.

Reports said the minister almost broke into a run and looked panicked as he was escorted back into the building by security guards.

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