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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora