Thailand farmers rally, demand to meet PM: Thai farmers rallied in large numbers in Bangkok on Monday outside the caretaker cabinet’s temporary workplace at the permanent secretary for defence, demanding to meet with caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra over the government’s failure to pay them money owed under the controversial rice-pledging scheme, according to reports.
The farmers, who arrived by buses at 11:30am from their campsite at the Commerce Ministry, insisted they would talk only with Ms Yingluck herself, who reportedly arrived at the office at 10:30am.
The government deployed police and military personnel around the building and erected razor wire barricades to try and keep the protesters out, reported the Bangkok Post.
The farmers reportedly were able to break through the wire and enter the compound, but stayed outside the building.
The protesting farmers are led by Rawee Rungruang, chairman of the network of farmers from western provinces, who stormed out of a meeting with ministers last week after they were unable to tell him when the government would be able to make the overdue payments under the rice programme.
The government owes 130 billion baht (US$4 billion) to over one million farmers under the rice-pledging scheme, which is under an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption and irregularities.
A few days ago the caretaker government was finally able to secure a bank loan of 17 billion baht, and said it would begin making payments on Monday, Feb 17.
But Mr Rawee believed the loan was only a government tactic to buy time, and the loaned amount was only enough to pay a small percentage of the money owed.
Yesterday he announced about 4,500 farmers from 20 provinces would stage a major rally outside the cabinet’s workplace demanding the government pay the full amount owed to the farmers.
He said the protesters would give the government seven days to pay the debt, or the rally will be escalated and will not be called off until the debt is paid in full.
Unlike the three-month old anti-government protests in Bangkok, which are largely made up of the ruling party’s political opponents, the farmers are normally this government’s strongest support base – and have been strongly pro-Thaksin since his first election victory in 2001.