Rubber protesters on Sunday continued to block Phetkasem Highway and demanded the government raise the price for raw rubber sheet to 100 baht per kilogramme and for oil palm to 6 baht/kg.
A rubber planter goes on his routine to tap the rubber latex at a plantation in Rayong province. (Bangkok Post file photo)
The rubber growers started the highway blockade at Bang Saphan district of Prachuap Khiri Khan province on Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday morning, highway police told South-bound motorists to turn left at kilometre marker 400 to take a detour along the sea shore and back to Phetkasem Highway again at kilometre marker 423 before proceeding to south.
Bangkok-bound motorists were also told to turn right at kilometre marker 423 to use the road along the sea shore to take Phetkasem Highway again at kilometre marker 400 before heading for Bangkok.
The situation at the protest site in Bang Saphan district was still calm.
Tossapol Kwanrod, a coordinator of rubber and oil palm growers, said apart from the demand for 100 baht for a kilogramme of raw rubber sheet and 6 baht for a kilogramme of oil palm, the protesters also wanted the government to urgently amend the regulaltions for issuing land rights documents to rubber and oil palm farmers in the 16 southern provinces.
They want Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra or a minister with full authority to meet and negotiate with the network of rubber and oil palm growers.
The protesters also demanded the immediate transfer of Pol Maj Gen Thanet Sunthornsuk, the Prachuap Khiri Khan police chief.
They also asked the government not to take legal action, whether civil or criminal, against the protesters.
They vowed to continue with the road blockade until the prime minister or a fully-authorised person comes to meet them for talks.
It was reported that shortly after midnight Saturday, police arrested a 13-year-old Thai and two Myanmar nationals of Mon origin as they were scattering metal spikes at Sri Nakhon intersection in tambon Chaiyarat of Bang Saphan Noi district. They were being questioned.
Rubber planters gather to block Phetkasem Highway to demand the government to raise price for rubber and palm. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)
Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan and Public Relations Department chief Apinan Jantarungsi reportedly travelled to Prachuap Khiri Khan to hold an urgent meeting at 11am on Sunday with governor Veera Sriwattanatrakul and security officials at the provincial hall.
At about 12pm, Mr Veera issued an order to invoke the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2007 to ban people from joining the protest and for the people already in the area to leave the protest site via kilometre marker 415 in front of Ban Srinakhon Hospital in tambon Chang Raek. Violators of the order are liable to a jail term of not more than three months or a fine of up to 6,000 baht or both.
The order was reportedly issued after the authorities failed in talks to persuade the protesters to partly remove the blockade to allow traffic to pass.
Five companies of riot police had been put on standby in front of Bang Saphan police station, about 20 kilometres from the protest site, indicating that the police might be use to disperse the protesters.
Mr Veera also announced that Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok was expected to arrived in Prachuap Khiri Khan for talks with the rubber protesters at about 4pm.
In the latest development, Mr Veera asked the police to petition for a court order forcing the protesters to remove the blockade.
In Bangkok, Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew, the national police chief, said he had assigned Pol Gen Vorapong Chiewpreecha to go down to Prachuap Khiri Khan to follow the situation.
If the protesters insisted on continuing the blockade, force might be used under the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act to disperse them, he said.
Pol Gen Adul said some leaders of groups campaigning against the government had joined the rubber protest in Bang Saphan district.
They had earlier been arrested and released on bail. Their participation in the renewed rubber protest could lead to the revocation of their bail, he said.
Pol Gen Adul said police had been deployed around the protest site to maintain law and order.
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