Farmers network to rally in Thai capital for rice money

BANGKOK - The Northern Farmers Network yesterday mobilised members to rally in Bangkok along with farmers from other regions, to pressure the caretaker government into releasing long-overdue payments for rice sold under the pledging scheme.

Network chairman Kittisak Rattanawaraha said the farmers on 50 vehicles departed in the morning for Bangkok, where they would gather on Lat Phrao Road before marching on.

However, Pakasit Chaemcharas, a leading member of the Phichit, Nakhon Sawan, Sukhothai, Kamphaeng Phet and Phitsanulok farmers' group, said the group would wait until after the election before discussing with leading members about their demands and details of a protest escalation plan.

He said farmers from the five provinces would gather at the Pho Sai Ngam intersection on Asian Highway 117 in Phichit's Bung Narang subdistrict tomorrow, before leaving for Bangkok, where they would join farmers from Chai Nat, Sing Buri and Angthong.

Meanwhile, 50 farmers on 11 pickup trucks, led by Democrat MP Warong Dechgitvigrom, departed from Phitsanulok City Hall to join the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) rallies in the hope that PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban would help them secure payments for the rice-pledging scheme.

The group members, expected to join the Lat Phrao rally in the evening, also carried with them rice-pledge scheme certificates to prevent accusations of making fake claims.

Phitsanulok residents raised Bt70,000 (S$2,705) in cash donations to aid their travel expenses, Warong said.

Phrom Phiram district farmer Theeraporn Thanomsap said she and other fellow farmers did not know who to turn to anymore, after their calls for help fell on deaf ears, so they had turned to Suthep and ignored the election.

Wang Thong district farmer Nawaporn Somboon said the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) had sent him a letter demanding repayment of his debt while his farmer credit card had already reached its limit, so he had decided to join the protest in the hope of recovering the money for his pledged rice.

Meanwhile, farmers again blocked Wang Manao intersection on Rama II Road in Ratchaburi's Pak Tho district yesterday to demand payment for their pledged rice, after officials failed to honour their promise to pay them by Friday.

This was despite the group's previous resolution to block the road on Monday. The complete blockade of all lanes led to severe traffic jams, prompting police to direct motorists to use other routes.

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