Thousands of growers Tuesday escalated their protest by blocking several roads in the South and Rayong, including Highway No.41 in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Highways No.417 and No.41 in Surat Thani, the main road in front of provincial hall complex in Rayong, and a road in Phatthalung's Si Nakharin district.
The cabinet Tuesday approved 5.62 billion baht from the central budget for use as a subsidy for rubber planters, as proposed by the national rubber policy committee.
Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said a subsidy of 1,260 baht per rai of rubber plantation, limited to 10 rai per farmer, will be transferred through Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BACC) accounts directly to rubber growers.
The approved subsidy is lower than the one the government earlier offered and which was accepted by rubber farmers in the Central Plains, the North and Northeast, but rejected by those in the South and the East.
Previously, the government offered a subsidy of up to 25 rai per farmer.
However, many rubber growers in the South and eastern province of Rayong were dismayed with the cabinet decision which they saw as not responding to their demands. They continued and intensified their protests, and demanded that the subsidy for rubber sheet be between 101 and 120 baht/kg. (Story continues below)
Mr Kittiratt has asked rubber farmers to send their representatives to hand in their additional demands at the Centra Government Complex Hotel in Chaeng Watthana area of the capital at 2pm Wednesday.
But the farmers called on him to meet them in Nakhon Si Thammarat or Surat Thani. They threatened to lay siege to Nakhon Si Thammarat airport if the provincial governor did not accept their demands.
Mr Kittiratt said he was ready to negotiate with the protesters wherever they wanted but if he went to the South at this particular time it would cause trouble for security authorities.
He denied he was lazy or afraid of being killed should he not travel to meet the farmers.
About 7pm, the government assigned Pol Maj Gen Thawat Boonfueng, deputy secretary-general to the prime minister, to fly to Nakhon Si Thammarat to negotiate with protesters. He has scheduled talks with their representatives this morning.
Riot police have been deployed to tighten security at the international airports in Surat Thani and Krabi.
Earlier in the day, more than 20,000 protesters rallied at the Surat Thani Cooperative in Surat Thani's Phunphin district about 2.30pm.
Later at 5pm, more than 100 protesters used tyres to block Highway No. 417 linking downtown Surat Thani and the provincial airport.
In Nakhon Si Thammarat, more than 1,000 rubber growers from several districts moved from their protest site at the Tha Sala district office and blocked off the inbound-lane of the Nakhon Si Thammarat-Surat Thani road to escalate their demonstration.
In Cha-uat district, rubber growers protested for a 12th day and were still blocking Ban Toon rail crossing.
More than 700 rubber growers from Rayong and neighbouring Chon Buri rallied outside the provincial hall in Rayong's Muang district and blocked off a section of Sukhumvit Road leading to downtown areas.
The farmers also burnt coffins with the names of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Yukol Limlaemthong on them.
Meanwhile, theNakhon SiThammarat provincial court Tuesday issued a warrant for the arrest of Kiattisak Chankhong, 31, who is suspected of opening fire on protesters at Ban Toon railway crossing in Cha-uat districton Sunday morning. Sirichai Boonnuwong, 31, was killed and Sitthisak Jai-ngam, 25. wounded.
Pol Maj Gen Rachot Yensuang, adviser to the Royal Thai Police, said witnesses had confirmed the shooting stemmed from a personal quarrel among the protesters. Police are hunting Mr Kiattisak.