Pheu Thai tries to halt farmers

Senior Pheu Thai Party members tried desperately on Thursday night to convince a farm leader to change a plan to lead farmers to Bangkok to protest against the government's failure to pay for pledged rice.

Key Pheu Thai figures, including Somchai Wongsawat, made phone calls to Chada Thaiseth, a former Chartthaipattana Party member, to put the brakes on a convoy of about 1,000 farmers which has been moving slowly towards the capital from Uthai Thani and other central provinces.

Mr Somchai said Mr Chada should not be orchestrating the protest rally. "The government will pay [the farmers] every satang, although payments could come a bit late,'' he said.

The farmers began their journey from Uthai Thani and Nakhon Sawan on Wednesday. They stayed in Bang Pa-in district in Ayutthaya Thursday night before resuming the journey on Friday to Suvarnabhumi Airport as their destination.

Mr Chada said earlier that he had to fulfill his promise to them that he would take them to Bangkok if they were not paid for their pledged rice by Jan 30.

The caretaker government had asked him to negotiate with the farmers in his area last month, offering a pledge to pay for their participation in the rice-pledging scheme by Jan 30. But the money had never arrived.

Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said Pheu Thai had also made phone calls to Chartthaipattana executives to talk former members into halting the convoy.

Party deputy spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard stressed Pheu Thai's sympathy towards farmers to Mr Chada and even advised him to make proposals directly to caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra or through the Pheu Thai Party or the Chartthaipattana de facto leader Banharn Silpa-archa in exchange for ending the rally.

Mr Chada said his decision was not politically driven, the deputy spokesman quoted him as saying.

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