Thai protesters march to support unpaid rice farmers

07 Feb 2014 / 13:35 H.

BANGKOK (Feb 7, 2014): Thousands of anti-government demonstrators marched through Bangkok's main business district Friday to raise money for rice farmers who have not been paid for their crops by the government.
Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary general of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) which has held anti-government protests in the capital over the past three months, said he would aim to collect at least 10 million baht (307,700 dollars) through donations from the public.
About a million farmers are owed more than 100 billion baht (3 billion dollars) by the government under its rice-pledging scheme, a policy that helped the ruling Pheu Thai Party win the 2011 general election, but has now run out of funds.
Hundred of irate rice farmers protested on Thursday outside the Commerce Ministry and more were expected to join Friday. The protests over the rice scheme comes as the caretaker cabinet of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is under pressure following months of street protests and a disrupted general election on Sunday.
The PDRC enjoys strong support among Bangkok's middle class and political elite, while the Pheu Thai's support in rural areas has been weakened by anger at the bankrupt rice-pledging scheme.
Initial election results suggested a fall in popularity for Pheu Thai, which won 10.8 million votes compared with more the 15 million in the 2011 polls, according to Election Commission initial estimates.
The government promised to pay rice farmers 40 to 50 per cent above market rates for their rice, but the programme ran out of funds for the second 2013 harvest in October-December.
The rice scheme is also the subject of an investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission. – dpa

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