Yingluck tastes rice to dispel rumours

Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (C) and other officials eat rice in front of cameras during their visit to Khao C.P. Co. Ltd rice factory in Ayutthaya July 18, 2013.

THAILAND - Struggling to deal with a massive stockpile of rice, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra moved to nip another crisis in the bud by sampling some before reporters and photographers.

She did so in the light of rumours that some rice has been tainted by a fumigant.

For Thailand, rice is a politically strategic and highly symbolic commodity.

Thus, the Premier made the high-profile tour of the high-tech processing plant near the historic city of Ayuthaya, where the CP Trading Group puts out 1.08 million tonnes of rice every year, about half of which is Hom Mali or jasmine rice.

Just as her elder brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, once ate a chicken lunch in front of reporters to show that you could not get bird flu from cooked chicken, so Ms Yingluck sampled rice to dispel fears of tainted grain.

Late last week, a television host, Mr Sutthiphong Thammawuthi, passed on unverified information via his Facebook page that the top Thai rice brand, Royal Umbrella jasmine rice, produced by CP Trading Group, and another, Benjarong, were tainted with toxic residue from a fumigant.

Mr Sutthiphong - facing a criminal lawsuit from the company - subsequently apologised.

According to a news report, the company's lawyers withdrew the lawsuit on Thursday, after his written apology and a pledge to publicise quality control measures for rice in his television programme.

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