THAILAND - Armed men shot at rubber farmers, killing one person early Sunday morning, threatening to inflame tensions in an ongoing protest by farmers in southern Thailand to pressure the government to shore up falling rubber prices.
Over the past week, protesters have blockaded a major highway as well as the main railway track connecting Bangkok to Malaysia in a bid to extract from the government a price guarantee of 120 baht (S$4.80) per kg, which is about 50 per cent above global prices.
A politician from the opposition Democrat Party, which has a strong support base in the south, joined the protest, though the party has denied inciting the movement.
Thailand is the world's largest producer of rubber, but its farmers have been hit by sliding commodity prices in recent years as demand has dropped in tandem with slowing economies around the world.
The farmers had earlier threatened to ramp up the protest and rally across the country on Tuesday.
The threat, however, appeared to peter out at the end of Thursday after farmers in the north, north-east and central regions in Thailand agreed to a government counter- offer of 80 baht per kg of rubber as well as subsidies for rubber plantations.
But the protests in the south continued.
According to local media, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a protest site in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat before dawn on Sunday, killing one man and injuring another.