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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More