Satisfied by govt subsidy, Thai rubber farmers call off protest

BANGKOK - Thai rubber farmers have called off demonstrations planned for the weekend after the government doubled its subsidy for production and offered help for people arrested in protests last week, a farmers' leader said on Wednesday.

"We are quite satisfied with the government subsidy. We can tell you for sure now there will be no protest this weekend,"said Amnuay Yutitham, leader of a group representing farmers from 16 southern provinces, where most Thai rubber is produced.

The government has promised a subsidy that should lift farmers' income to around 90 baht (S$3.60) per kg, versus a market price of around 80 baht.

It has also indicated it could provide help for those caught up in the violence during the protests.

"Although no one can be above the law, we could help those who were arrested with financial assistance during their trial, and those who were injured," said Tawat Boonfueng, the prime minister's deputy secretary-general, who has led negotiations for the government side.

Tens of thousands of rubber farmers, angered by a steep fall in prices, had taken to the streets for two weeks, blocking roads and railways and pelting police with rocks.

They have threatened to renew their protests if prices fall again and the subsidy fails to give them an adequate income.

Prices remain far below the 180 baht touched in February 2011, when benchmark smoked rubber sheet (RSS3) hit a record $6.40 (S$8.10) per kg.