(17 February) Some farmers have urged the Government Savings Bank to approve a loan to the administration for its rice mortgage scheme payment.
The government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is currently seeking loans from the GSB via the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) to pay off millions of baht in debt it owed to farmers across the country, who had pledged their rice to the government′s program.
However, anti-government protesters led by the People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD) oppose the interbank loans on the ground that the rice pledging scheme is a corrupt populist policy.
To block the loans, PCAD has encouraged its supporters to withdraw their savings from the GSB en masse as the means to voice their displeasure. PCAD hopes the prospect of a bank run would force the GSB to cancel its plan to approve the loans for the government.
Fearing that the campaign mounted by PCAD could compromise the promised rice payment, over 500 farmers from Ayutthaya province rallied in front of the GSB headquarters in Saphan Kwai district of Bangkok today to voice their support for the loans.
Mr. Likhit Utsahapradit, the Bang Chanee sub-district director and leader of the farmers group, said those who oppose the loans should sympathise with farmers who are waiting for the promised payment from the govenrment.
"We want the government to pay us as soon as possible," Mr. Likhit said, "I′d like to tell all sides not to get farmers involved with politics".
Mr. Vichian Puanglamchiak, director of Farmers and Agriculturalists Association of Thailand, said farmers in many provinces are distraught to see attempts to block the government′s payment to the farmers.
"It will only put farmers in more distress," Mr. Likhit complained.
Meanwhile, Director of the Government Savings Bank, Mr. Worawit Chailimpamontri, said the bank has seen a dramatic increase in money withdrawal in last three days, at the approximate amount of 30 billion baht.
The number is thrice the usual amount of money withdrawn in other periods, Mr. Worawit explained, adding that the incident has affected "confidence" of other clients who possess deposits in the bank.
"We will discuss the matter in a meeting with the executive board on 18 February to assess the damage," Mr. Worawit said, "If the damage turned out to be genuine, we might have to temporarily place the loans on hold".
Most of the cash withdrawal took place in Bangkok, where over 40% of the deposits of the GSB are located, according to Mr. Worawit. Southern provinces – stronghold of the PCAD movements – similarly sees spikes in withdrawal, while the northern and northeastern regions report no abnormal incident, Mr. Worawit said.
However, the mass withdrawal is not as high as the bank has initially estimated, since most of the withdrawals occurred in low-level accounts, the GSB director added.
Responding to the PCAD′s campaign, some pro-government supporters also either registered for new GSB accounts or increased their deposits in the existing accounts in order to show their support for the bank.
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