Editorial 23 July 2013 : Transparency from all sides

Many are calling for
transparency assessment of the the government’s rice pledging scheme, which allowed all Thai farmers
to sell rice to the state at higher rate than market price. Topics concerned are the production and
selling of the rice.

However, the attempt to inspect the program must be on the basis of
factual information, aiming to protect the interests of the public, and is not intended to be a tool
for political smear campaign. Otherwise, the process itself will lose its reliability, as what
happened in many so cases.

Recently, Consumer Protection Foundation and its networks
conducted an assessment on quality of rice in the government program, and claimed that of 46 brands
available in market, 1 brand contained chemical toxic above standard.

Meanwhile, another 33
brands found traces of anti-degradation chemicals, though the level of such contamination is well
under the standard limitation.

The Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Agriculture promptly
questioned the legitimacy of the assessment, asking whether the inspection was conducted in standard
laboratory, and whether it had been overseen by relevant experts.

In reply, the networks
insisted that their inspection was done with good faith, as they have been doing for the last 10
years or so.

Unfortunately, their lab result had turned into a part of the deeply divisive
political issue, with the anti-government critics seizing on the results to attack the government.
The intention to offer consumers? protection by the networks risk being lost in the shouts of
political bickering.

On one hand, the government should react to the inspection conducted by
these private agencies with grateful attitude; after all, the inspection of the rice program offers
a critical assessment of the said program for the sake of the public.

The private
organisations, on the other hand, need not feel offended by challenges from the government and other
related agencies. They should openly discuss question and concerns about the rice verification
process raised by any party, to prove the sincerity behind the inspection.

Ultimately,
this issue should remind us that transparency is demanded of all parties involved in the
dispute.