News / Asia

    Thailand Ends Controversial Rice Subsidy Scheme

    FILE - Thai workers unload rice from the truck of a farmer, at a rice collection center, in the northeastern province of Roi Et , in Thailand.
    FILE - Thai workers unload rice from the truck of a farmer, at a rice collection center, in the northeastern province of Roi Et , in Thailand.
    Ron Corben
    Thailand's military government ended a rice price-support scheme, put in place under the former civilian government, as investigations continue into widespread corruption and losses of billions of dollars from the program.

    The policy change comes as Thailand is predicted to return as the world's largest rice exporter, eclipsing the current market leader, India.

    Thailand's military leader, General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, said all rice price-support schemes were dismissed unless they provided direct benefits to the farmers. Prayuth said alternative measures were needed to boost agricultural development and support to farmers.
     
    FILE - Thai farmers march through the street during a rally to put pressure on the Office of the Anti-Corruption Commission in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 7, 2014.FILE - Thai farmers march through the street during a rally to put pressure on the Office of the Anti-Corruption Commission in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 7, 2014.
    x
    FILE - Thai farmers march through the street during a rally to put pressure on the Office of the Anti-Corruption Commission in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 7, 2014.
    FILE - Thai farmers march through the street during a rally to put pressure on the Office of the Anti-Corruption Commission in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 7, 2014.
    Under the rice price-support scheme of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the government paid farmers 50 percent more than world market prices. The government believed the plan could make Thailand, then the world's largest rice exporter, a price leader and force up global rice prices.

    The program was a central policy of Yingluck's government and key to the Pheu Thai party's 2011 election victory.

    But the scheme, costing over $19 billion and shrouded in official secrecy, floundered as Thailand, unable to sell its rice at the higher prices, was left with millions of tons of the grain in warehouses, while the government was engulfed by allegations of widespread corruption.  
     
    Government financing for the scheme dried up last year, leaving hundreds of thousands of farmers unpaid.

    About 20 farmers are alleged to have committed suicide because of financial distress, while others took to the streets in protest in Bangkok pleading for funds.

    In March, Yingluck's caretaker government, in a bid to raise money, began releasing rice at discounted prices onto the world market.

    Thailand's warehouses could be holding as much as 18 million tons of rice - double normal levels.
     
    David Dawe, a senior economist with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said sales of Thai rice this year led to lower global prices.

    "One of the ways that they were raising money is they realized that they were going to have to sell some of the huge stocks that they had," Dawe said. "They just couldn't continue to borrow money and sit on all these stocks and so they just started selling stocks. Thailand only went out of the market because they were trying to hoard everything."
     
    Corruption charges

    In early May, prior to the military takeover of the Thai government, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) found Yingluck at least partially responsible for corruption related to the scheme.

    A subcommittee is examining the former prime minister's declared assets along with those of other cabinet members linked to the program.
     
    Farmers from neighboring rice-growing countries, including Vietnam and Cambodia, were illegally shipping their rice to Thailand to be sold at the higher prices. Rice millers are also under investigation for overstating rice stocks.
     
    The NACC is investigating losses of up to $16 billion, with almost 3 million tons of rice missing from warehouses.
     
    Thai Rice Exporters Association honorary president, Vichai Sriprasert, said the military is now assessing the actual quantity of rice in warehouses.
     
    "We address first the quantity - let's say the quantity, how many tons do we have? That hasn't been resolved yet. And after the quantity is resolved, to check the quality is much more difficult because the warehouse is full," Vichai said. "You cannot really go into the center of the warehouse. It's not possible to do that now - but once you know the quantity is correct, then the second stage would be to identify quality."
     
    Currently, Vichai said Thai rice is the cheapest on the global market, as the country works to clear the backlog.
     
    However, the outlook for Thai rice is optimistic.

    The U.S. Agriculture Department said Thailand is forecast to be the largest rice exporter again by 2015, shipping almost 10 million tons - the highest since a record of 10.6 million tons in 2011 prior to the rice-price scheme.

    Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

    You May Like

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Akearoon from: Thailand
    June 17, 2014 5:16 AM
    There's still no real proof of corruption yet! It's just an allegation. If later found out the corruption allegation is nonsense, the rice price-support program should be brought back to reimplement as a way to improve farmers' income. Should not this be a good policy for a good government?
    In Response

    by: Ryan Coughlin from: Bangkok
    June 22, 2014 9:54 AM
    I would like to see someone show ANY evidence that the existed any sort of official corruption in the rice plan. Just because people say something enough times, doesn't make it true.
    In Response

    by: Theodore Whittlinger from: Nevada
    June 17, 2014 3:58 PM
    The article points out that the program was a FAILURE at all levels! The rice could not be sold at the high price that resulted from the program. Corruption is only a part of the problem - also, I have been in Thailand many times for extended stays and, like you if you are honest, corruption is always involved in government programs!

    by: Dolamite from: US
    June 17, 2014 1:42 AM
    Would you have expected anything less from the likes of this country. Pretty much a no brainer.

    by: Mark Olanackaraseyranee
    June 16, 2014 1:11 PM
    Finally an end to a nightmare for the farmer and taxpayer of Thailand.
    In Response

    by: Medulla Oblongata from: Bangkok Thailand
    June 17, 2014 1:37 AM
    Couldn't agree more Mark. Good riddance of this unrealistic corruption plagued scheme designed by Taksin for grabbing farmers' votes. Populist propaganda don't sell any more..rural people are now wiser.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.