Farmers try to help those most desperate

PHITSANULOK — While some desperate farmers are taking to the streets of Bangkok to try to get money from the government, one group has taken to the streets of central Phitsanulok to seek donations to buy food for their families, but they've had to fight some suspicions that they are not "real farmers".

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Wednesday was the second day that farmers from tambon Sripirom of Phrom Phiram district were seen walking with donation boxes in and out of two major markets in Phitsanulok’s municipality. 

On the first day of the campaign Tuesday, they had received 18,000 baht of donation money from many vendors at Municipality 6 and Ruam Jai markets who wanted to help relieve their plight. The vendors at Ruam Jai market were so kind that they asked the farmers to return with donation boxes again Wednesday.

The group was led by Siraprapa Kukong who last month led farmers from her neighbourhood to join the blockade of the Indochina intersection in Muang district in a protest that demanded the caretaker government pay the money that is owed to them.

The farmers’ latest campaign was disrupted briefly when police showed up at the market and asked them to show documents proving they were real farmers. Many vendors booed and harangued the officers for showing no mercy towards the suffering farmers, but there were no incidents. 

Police explained that they were acting on complaints from residents that a group of people may have posed as farmers to make some money. The police allowed the farmers to carry on with their collection after they were able to show them farmer credit cards and rice pledging documents. 

A number of vendors and bystanders donated to the group on the second day with some cheering them up and shaking their hands in a bid to lend moral support. 

Mrs Siraprapa said many farmers in her tambon were feeling desperate after months of waiting and protests, yet still the government could not start making the log-overdue payments. Some households had no money to buy rice for cooking daily meals.

She said the campaign was launched after she received 20,000 baht from donors on Feb 7 and decided to spend it on buying 15 kilogramme sacks of quality rice worth 335 baht each and distribute them to other farmers in her village and nearby villages. 

The donations from the public had so far enabled her to provide rice sacks to 200 households in three of the tambon’s 13 villages, she said. 

There would be no fund-raising on Thursday, she said, as the group would go to buy rice to give to farmers in a fourth village. Mrs Siraprapa said she would continue to help fellow farmers through public donations. 

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