Thai farmers fear draft bill will impose water tax

BANGKOK: Farmers in Thailand are up in arms against the water resource draft bill currently being deliberated by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), as they fear the bill would impose a water tax on them.

Farmers' groups have urged the government to halt the deliberation of the draft bill and to withdraw it from the NLA as the tax, if imposed, would exacerbate their plight.

"Farmers should 'rush to meet' the Prime Minister (Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha) to demand the draft bill be halted. If not, the issue will have widespread ramifications," Thai Farmers Association president, Rawee Rungrueng told the local media, recently.

He argued that farmers should not be taxed because water for farming “comes from rain which is free”, while Central Farmers Network chairman, Samien Hongton said some farmers were planning moves to oppose the draft bill.

The farmers fear the draft bill, if passed, would impose tax on water they use for farming, either from irrigation or natural sources.

Agriculture is one of the most important sectors in Thailand, with the country among the world's top rice producers.

Meanwhile, NLA deputy chairman Peerasak Porjit has allayed fears expressed by farmers’ groups and denied that small-scale farmers would be taxed for water they use for their farms.

"No government will increase the expenses of farmers. They will only lower them," he was quoted as saying, adding that taxing small-scale farmers was an inconceivable idea and vowed to step down from his post if the water tax is imposed.

The draft bill is expected to get the NLA's approval this month before coming into effect next month following an official announcement in the Royal Gazette.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has also stepped into the discussion, saying small-scale farmers should not be fearful of the draft bill as the group would not be targeted for the water tax.

He said there was no reason to collect water tax from small-scale farmers. — Bernama