THAILAND: Why are Rice Farmers Protesting in Thailand?

Saturday 15 February 2014

Date: 10 February 2014

Type: News

Source:Global Voices

Keywords: Farmers, rice subsidy

Hundreds of rice farmers have been protesting in the past several days in Bangkok after the Thailand government has repeatedly failed to provide payments under the rice pledging program. Delayed payments have already reached 130 billion Baht affecting more than a million farmers.

Introduced in 2011 after the election victory of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the program involved the government buying the rice output of local farmers at high a price before reselling the rice to the global market. The program was meant to improve the savings of farmers.

For five decades, Thailand was the world’s largest rice exporter but it has been overtaken by India and Vietnam in recent years. Critics blame the rice pledging program for the huge financial losses in the rice sector.

The rice protest has intensified the country’s political crisis as anti-government protests continue to gather thousands in the streets of Bangkok.

Majority of farmer-protesters are not affiliated with the People’s Democratic Reform Committee which has been the lead organizer of the anti-government protests. In fact, many farmers are from the village strongholds of the ruling party.

The opposition has expressed support to the protesting farmers and has initiated a donation campaign to help sustain the protest in the city. The opposition is also blaming corruption under the Yingluck government for the present suffering of rice farmers.

For its part, the government said it was unable to pay farmers because of the protests which caused the dissolution of the parliament. It urged protesters not to block or occupy government banks.

It assured farmers that the government is finding a mechanism on how to deliver the payments. It also rejected criticism that the rice subsidy program has become a disastrous populist policy.###

See online : Global Voices

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