(7 February) A group of farmers have requested the anti-graft body to take action against the government for its failure to pay them under rice-pledging program.
The government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has previously promised to pay farmers for their pledged rice by 31 January. Yet many farmers said they had not received the payment, causing them to take to the streets in many provinces and voice their discontent.
Today hundreds of farmers from various rice-growing provinces such as Suphan Buri, Angthong, Ayutthaya, and Saraburi marched to the office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) in Nonthaburi province where they filed a request urging the NACC to investigate the government′s failure.
Mr. Songphon Poonsawad, President of the Farmers Council in Angthong province, stated that NACC is his last hope to hold the government accountable, as the authorities were supposed to pay the farmers 4 – 5 months ago for the mortgaged rice.
Many farmers ran out of money and were forced to take loans from illegal loan sharks who charged high interest rate, Mr. Songphon said.
He added that the government had not provided any clear explanation for the delay of the rice money, which was supposed to have arrived by 31 January as promised by the government.
The farmers also want to meet Ms. Yingluck in person to ask her for solid solution for the scheme, said Mr. Songphon. He said the protesters have set the deadline for the government to clear the matter by 15 February, or face an escalation in demonstration from the farmers.
Deputy Secretary General of the NACC, Mr. Wittaya Akhomphitak, received the letter from the farmers and promised that NACC will discuss the issue on 11 February.
The NACC will appoint a commission to investigate and document any distress the farmers have been facing from the controversial rice scheme, according to Mr. Wittaya.
However, not every protesting farmer group is taking a hostile approach to the current government.
On the same day, a group of at least 200 farmers gathered at Phisanulok City Hall to express their support the government, stating that they simply wish to be compensated for their rice.
The group, led by Mr. Somyong Joithing, the director of Wang Intok Subdistrict, said that they hope the authority will be able to clear off its debt and approve the payment for the pledged rice soon.
Mr. Somyong also indicated that the group will submit open letter to Mr. Rapee Phonbuphakit, Phitsanulok Governor, to explain their intention for the demonstration.
He also begged The People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD) to stop interrupting the government’s attempt to solve the issue, after PCAD tried to besiege and pressure several banks not to grant loans for the government′s rice scheme fund.
“Please understand that farmers are in distress”, said Mr. Somyong.
Mr. Witurat Srinam, Phitsanulok Deputy Governor, later received the letter from the farmers representative. He promised to pass on the issue to Phitsanulok Governor as soon as possible.
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