Govt plans to seek $5 billion to pay angry farmers

THAILAND - The caretaker government is considering seeking additional funds totalling Bt130 billion (S$5 billion) to subsidise the rice-pledging scheme through bank loans and the issuing of bonds, following a Council of State decision that this may be legally possible despite restrictions related to the looming election.

The latest move is expected to appease angry farmers, who are threatening to escalate their protests nationwide as a result of not receiving payment for overdue rise pledges, owed to them for the 2013-14 crop. Some farmer groups have also threatened to join the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protests in Bangkok today if their demands are not met.

That decision could help boost Pheu Thai Party's popularity in the upcoming election, as farmers have threatened to drop their support for the party if they are not compensated for rice submitted to the pledging scheme since October.

The Council of State sent a letter to the government on Thursday saying that it could seek more funds for the rice-pledging scheme, secretary-general Chukiat Rattanachaicharn told Krungthep Turakij newspaper.

Chukiat said that after consideration, council members agreed that the caretaker government's fund-seeking plan for the rice pledging scheme was not a new project and could lawfully go ahead.

Payment for rice pledges during the latest harvest season from October 2013 to February 2014 were approved in a Cabinet meeting on September 3, ahead of the House dissolution on December 9.

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