The truth is out, that the Commerce Ministry's claim of a 15-million-tonne government-to-government rice deal with China over three years is anything but real.
There is a popular Thai saying that goes along these lines: “A dead elephant cannot be covered up by lotus leaves.”
This is exactly the situation facing the Commerce Ministry – there is a dead elephant in its front yard and it is trying desperately to cover it up with lotus leaves, or with whatever is handy. In this case, the dead elephant is the controversial rice pledging scheme, which has already filled the country’s warehouses with some 10 million tonnes of unsold milled rice with another 30 million tonnes of paddy from the new harvest season to be bought under the scheme, milled and then stored in wherever empty space is available - such as an aircraft hangar, or in a military base somewhere.
The 15 million tonnes of milled rice that the Commerce Ministry earlier claimed to have been sold to China in a government-to-government deal over three years, of five million tonnes annually, under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) hastily approved by the Thai cabinet on Nov 6 turns out to be a complete fantasy.
There is no such deal at all, according to the MoU which was actually signed on Wednesday at Government House between Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and his Chinese counterpart Chen Deming and witnessed by visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
In the MoU there is no mention whatsoever of anything which indicates that China will definitely buy rice from Thailand. There is no mention whatsoever of the amount of rice to be bought by China, or the value of the rice, or the delivery timeframe.
The closest thing to a rice deal is the mention in the MoU that both China and Thailand will support their respective governmental and private sectors to push for bilateral rice trade and to secure rice markets.
So, where did the 15 million tonnes figure come from in the first place? Was it made up by the Thai Commerce Ministry to give the impression that it had secured a rice deal with China, to ease the pressure from criticism of the rice pledging scheme, without the knowledge or consent of the Chinese side?
The fact is that the MoU approved by the Thai cabinet at the Nov 6 meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, while Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was abroad, was just a draft and was not seen by the Chinese.
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