Bangkok protesters collect cash donations for farmers: Anti-government protesters marched through Bangkok’s downtown commercial district on Friday to raise cash donations for rice farmers who have not been paid for their crops under the government’s controversial rice mortgage scheme.
The rice programme helped the ruling Pheu Thai Party win the 2011 election, but has now run out of funds.
The government owes some one million farmers registered under the scheme more than 100 billion baht (US$3.05 billion). The programme promised to pay the farmers 40 to 50% above market rates for the rice, but it ran out of funds for the second 2013 harvest of October to December, according to a Bangkok Post report.
The rice programme is also under investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).
The Bangkok protesters, led by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), marched on Friday from the Sathorn Road bridge to Charoen Krung Road and into Silom Road to Lumphini Park.
Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the PDRC, said the group wanted to collect at least 10 million baht (US$305,000) in public donations, and would march again on Monday.
In Ratchaburi, rice farmers reopened Rama 2 Road to traffic after blocking the main highway to the South for six days.
Farm trucks had been used to block the highway since February 1 to pressure the government to quickly make overdue rice payments.
A mass protest of farmers is also being held in front of the Commerce Ministry, which is in its second day.
A protest leader said the farmers would not disperse until they get the money owed them for their rice pledged several months ago.