News / Asia

Thai Rice Farmers Give Government a Week to Make Payments

Rice farmers walk between their tractors on a main highway where they spent a night in Ayutthaya. Thai farmers called off a tractor drive to Bangkok's main airport to protest against not being paid under a rice subsidy scheme after an assurance they would
Rice farmers walk between their tractors on a main highway where they spent a night in Ayutthaya. Thai farmers called off a tractor drive to Bangkok's main airport to protest against not being paid under a rice subsidy scheme after an assurance they would
Ron Corben
Pressure on Thailand's government eased Friday after thousands of rice farmers, preparing to demonstrate in Bangkok over delayed rice payments, accepted promises of money next week. Thai rice sector remains deeply troubled as the government tries to find a way to pay tens of thousands of farmers.

Faced with threats from thousands of farmers arriving in Bangkok, Thailand's besieged government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra successfully negotiated their return home Friday with promises to meet outstanding payments next week.

The farmers, from the central regions, are among as many as one million rice growers waiting for outstanding payments from last year's crop under the government's controversial rice price support scheme.

The Thai Government has sent more than $20 billion during the two years it has been in office to farmers and millers as part of a scheme that offered to pay growers 50 percent above world prices.

The plan was a center piece of the governing Pheu Thai Party's election manifesto in 2011 and helped it secure the votes of the rural electorate in the north and northwest of the country.

But analysts and rice industry observers say the scheme has been dogged by corruption allegations and suggestions of fake government-to-government  deals that failed to materialize.

Vichai Siriprasert, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said the scheme has led to huge losses for the government.

"Now we have a big mess because the price was set at the wrong level. We know that as a consequence we could not sell the rice - overstocked and ran out of money," he explained. "The government I would say lost about two thirds of the investment. So after two years they managed to get back only 18 baht for every 100 baht invested in the mortgage scheme."

Anger over the late payments has grown within the rural community as farmers face increasing indebtedness. Farmers associations have linked some 11 farmer suicides in part to the delays.

Earlier this week, Yingluck, on national TV, offered a public apology.

But while Yingluck spoke of her sadness for the farmers, she defended the scheme, claiming delays in payment were due to on-going anti-government protests in Bangkok.

At the same time, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is to press charges against Ms Yingluck in her role as chair of the national rice policy committee. Yingluck has rebutted the claims.

Thailand, once the world's leading rice exporter has slipped to third place behind India and Vietnam. Unable to sell its rice stockpiles on the international market without major losses, some 20 million tons of rice is now in warehouses, often deteriorating in quality.

David Dawe, a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) economist, says Thailand faces challenges in attempting international sales to raise funds to pay farmers without triggering a collapse in the global rice market.

"If they hold this stuff for too long it continues to deteriorate in storage and incur costs as well. But if they get rid of it all now they are going to cause the market to really collapse and so it's really going to be a fine balancing act," stated Dawe.

But Dawe said Thailand could return to being the world's top rice exporter once the current problems are overcome.  

The government, a caretaker administration until a new cabinet is formed after the February 2 national polls, has sought alternative funding sources to pay the farmers, including loans from state-owned banks. But depositors and staff have protested including a run on deposits at one bank that led to a halt in loans.

The rice farmers, strong supporters of the governing Pheu Thai Party, have given the Yingluck a week to meet the outstanding payments or are vowing to return and besiege the city.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Triple Gem from: Thailand
February 21, 2014 8:20 PM
The anti-government protests started Nov 25 2013 and the rice payments were due by October,she has made numerous promises already to pay the farmers without doing so and the latest promise is just to continue holding on to power to run the brutal Shinawatra regime.Help Thai farmers and buy Thai rice!

by: Triple Gem from: Thailand
February 21, 2014 7:55 PM
The rice payments were overdue months before the protests started,she shows no sincere regret with what has happened.Rubber,Topiaca,Corn,Sugar Cane farmers also have problems with payments.Her dishonesty is gobsmacking and the shameless torment she is causing the country makes her heartless!!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs