On Tuesday, the cabinet also approved a 5.62 billion baht fund to subsidise rubber growers hit by sagging prices for smoked rubber sheet.
Thawat Boonfueng, the cabinet deputy secretary-general, was assigned by Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong to negotiate with leading farmers in Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat. They were to be asked to send their representatives to talks in Bangkok on Wednesday. The government said it would provide air transport.
The talks were to be at a hotel at the Government Complex and would be led by Mr Kittiratt and Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Yukol Limlaemthong, in a bid to end the protests, which began on Aug 23.
"These talks show the government's sincerity in tackling this problem,'' Pol Maj Gen Thawat told FM100.5 news programme, before leaving for the two southern provinces.
But he made it clear that the government saw their demand for 120 baht per kilogramme for smoked rubber sheet as unrealistic. "The 120 baht demand is not possible," he said. Current prices are hovering around 80 baht.
He said he hoped the protesting farmers would soften their stance and agree to travel to Bangkok for the proposed talks.
However, the network of the farmers said the time was over for negotiations, because the government had ignored the problem for two years.
Protest rallies were also being held in Rayong, Chumphon, Phetchabun, Phattalung, Krabi, Songkhla and Trang on Tuesday, but police were most concerned about the rally at the Surat Thani Co-op office in Phun Phin district in Surat Thani and Cha-uat district in Nakhon Si Thammarat.
The number of demonstrators at the co-op had reportedly increased from 6,000 in the morning to about 10,000 in the afternoon. Police spokesman Pol Maj Gen Piya Uthayo said the two protest sites were the main focus for local police.
Protesters in Phunphin stepped up their campaign by using buses to block traffic on both the Bangkok- and south-bound lanes of the highway, police in Surat Thani said.
A protesting farmer said those blocking the road were not based in Surat Thani, and the leaders were exhorting them to end the blockade.
Mr Kittiratt said the cabinet on Tuesday approved a 5.62 billion baht fund from the Central Fund to pay a subsidy to rubber planters, as proposed by the National Rubber Policy Committee.
He said a subsidy of 1,260 baht per rai of rubber plantation, limited to 10 rai per farmer, would be made through the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BACC) to the bank accounts of registered rubber growers.
Of a total of 990,000 farmers who registered for the subsidy, it was expected about 980,000 would get the money.
A government committee is to consider how to help farmers with more than 10 rai of plantation. The committee would meet on Thursday to consider the issue before forwarding a report and recommendation to cabinet for approval, he said.
Video by Patipat Janthong