Desperate farmers seek help from King to get rice-scheme payment

Farmers will appeal to His Majesty the King on Thursday over their plight resulting from overdue payments owing from the rice-pledging scheme.

A farmer leader, Prakasit Jaemjumrat, said the group was gathering names and signatures of affected farmers in Phichit, Phitsanulok, Kamphaeng Phet and Nakhon Sawan to submit a petition to the Royal Household Bureau on Thursday.

They said after all previous attempts to gain attention, including road blockades, their complaints had fallen on deaf ears.

Prakasit said that Phichit province alone saw the caretaker government owing Bt7.5 billion in pledged rice payments to 40,000 farmers.

Meanwhile, some 1,000 farmers from Nakhon Pathom, Kanchanaburi, Suphan Buri, Samut Songkhram, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Ratchaburi gathered at Ratchaburi's Wang Manao intersection yesterday and totally blocked the Phet Kasem Road.

Southbound traffic flows through Phet Kasem and Rama II roads formed 10km-long traffic congestion.

Farmers' representative Ravee Rungreung said if the caretaker government wouldn't send a representative to negotiate with them, they would continue the road blockage - for months if needed - until they were paid.

Apologising to motorists for the inconvenience, he said the farmers were severely affected and had run out of solutions to get the caretaker government's attention on the issue.

Some 500 farmers from Phichit, Nakhon Sawan, Khamphaeng Phet, Sukhothai and Phitsanulok blocked one Bangkok-bound lane of a road in front of the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co-operatives (BAAC)'s Bung Na Rang branch in Phichit yesterday, calling for the pledged rice payments.

The group said this would be their final battle to get answers about pledged rice payments from the caretaker government.

The farmers at the rally also registered and submitted their documents for the royal petition.

Ang Thong agriculture council president Songpol Pulsawat said that a letter from Ang Thong farmers to the caretaker government - via the provincial governor on January 22 - for the overdue payments to be paid by January 31, hadn't seen any progress.

As a result, the farmers would block a main road in the province on February 6.

The group wanted the caretaker government to pay them for the pledged rice or let the farmers borrow money from the BAAC, with the caretaker government covering the loan interest for them.

The farmers expected a caretaker government representative to pick up their demand by February 6 at the rally site - or else the road blockade would continue, he added.