PM: Farmers hostage to political game

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday said she would continue to fight for farmers she said have been made hostage to a political game being played out by a group of people opposed to the government.

This political manipulation had put the caretaker government in a difficult position in implementing the popular rice-pledging scheme, she said.

The prime minister said this in a television speech broadcast nationwide by the Television Pool of Thailand  about 10.30am.

Ms Yingluck said she and her Pheu Thai Party were confident from the beginning that the programme would help lift farmers' incomes and improve their quality of life.

Over the past two years, the scheme had proved a success and farmers became a solid base for the grassroots economy and the country's economic growth, she said.

Ms Yingluck said the sources of capital to run the programme were rice sales handled by the Commerce Ministry and financial management by the Finance Ministry to acquire loans from various financial institutes for the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) to pay farmers for the pledged rice.

Unfortunately, the political game being manipulated by those seeking the government's removal had put up obstructions to the programme, leaving it in a difficult situation.

"No matter how many obstructions, I am not discouraged.  I will persist in fighting for the farmers," the caretaker prime minister said.

Ms Yingluck said if all banks and their executives took sympathy on farmers and allowed loans to the BAAC, the programme would continue.

"With a solid guarantee under the law, there are no reasons for the banks and their unions to fear that their  money would be used in the wrong way. The government is responsible for every baht.

"Moreover, the country's financial institutions are very strong with high liquidity. They can comfortably provide loans to help farmers without taking too much risk," she said.

The prime minister said that while the farmers were waiting for payments, the government has instructed the BAAC to extend the debt repayment period for them for six months.

To enable farmers to get funds for the coming crop season, the BAAC would increase the loan limit for both  existing clients and farmers who are not already customers.

Farmers can apply for a loan at the BAAC branch near their home.

Ms Yingluck said she would not let the ongoing political game hold farmers as hostages. She asked all those involved to have sympathy the farmers' hardship.

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