Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapriom remains tightlipped on goverment-to-government (G-to-G) rice deals, claiming the details are secret, as the Transport Ministry is asked to help provide storage space for this harvest's crop. In Bangkok the "sandbag row" was supposed to be settled at a meeting on Friday between City Hall and the Water and Flood Management Commission. And more violence in the deep South.
The announced but still unrevealed G-to-G rice deals remain shrouded in secrecy this week, and have also become the most controversial aspect of the government’s rice pledging scheme.
The scheme has survived scrutiny by the Constitution Court, which rejected a second petition by a group of academics and students from the National Institute Development Administration demanding the programme be declared unconstitutional, but the Commerce Ministry’s handling of it, especially its claim that 7.3 million tonnes of milled rice have already been contracted to be exported to four countries -- Indonesia, China, Bangladesh and Ivory Coast -- leaves much to be desired.
The commerce minister also claimed that 1.4 million tonnes of the rice sold had already been shipped abroad, but private sector exporters said they could find no evidence of it leaving.
Mr Boonsong has refused to reveal any details of the deals – neither the exact amount of rice sold to the four countries, or the selling price – claiming that they are secret and their disclosure may hurt foreign relations.
The minister said all the deals were madeex-warehouse, which means the buyers are responsible for almost everything including examing the quality of the rice, transport costs from the warehouses to freighters, and shipping to the destinations.
Rice exporters doubted the minister’s claims of export deals and, in particular, the claimed shipment of 1.4 million tonnes of rice already sent abroad. Chookiat Ophaswongse, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said the information was false.
He said only 5.2 million tonnes of rice were exported by the private sector in the first nine months this year and, by the end of the year, a grand total of 6.5 to 6.7 million tonnes were expected to be shipped, compared to last year’s 9.1 million tonnes.
Despite the claim of rice export deals being clinched, the Commerce Ministry has asked the Transport Ministry for space at Don Mueang airport’s cargo terminal to store rice from the 2012-13 harvest season.
The bickering between Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the Water and Flood Management Commission over sandbags in the drains has finally moved to the discussion table, when the two sides agreed to meet to settle their conflict this Friday.
A Bangkok Metropolitan Administration worker shows one of the sandbags that was dumped into the drainage system on Srinakarin Road as part of City Hall’s flood prevention plan. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)
Science and Technology Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi, who is also WFMC chairman, said Thursday he invited Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra to attend a WFMC meeting to discuss the sandbag issue, and he expected the City Hall to come up with credible facts to back its technique of stuffing sandbags in the drainage system to prevent flooding.
Mr Plodprasop earlier said this method of flood control sucks, but said he would apologise to City Hall if he was proven wrong. If he was proven right, he said, the BMA must remove all the sandbags from the drains.
With much of the world already using 4G wireless spectrum technology, and moving toward 5G, Thailand’s struggle to get 3G up and running remains in limbo.
The Central Administrative Court on Thursday acknowledged a complaint filed by Anuparp Thiralarp, a former president of Thailand Telecommunication Management Academy, seeking a delay of the auction of 3G wireless spectrum scheduled for next Tuesday by the National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).
It is expected that the court will make a ruling whether to accept the complaint, or not, before the Oct 16 spectrum auctrion otherwise - otherwise the auction will be automatically postponed until there is a ruling.
Acceptance of the petition for consideration would deprive consumers of the 3G service for an uncertain period.
In the restive far South, many shops were open for business this Friday, today, as shopkeepers and vendors defied threats made by Muslim militants fdemanding they close on Fridays, the Muslim sabbath. However, security was stepped up with police and soldiers guarding markets and shopping areas in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.
Business was unusually brisk in several fresh markets on Thursday as shoppers bought extra supplies of food and vegetables, fearing vendors might not open today. Officials from the governors down and community leaders mebarked on a door-knocking campaign throughout the week, assuring vendors and shopkeepers of the safety precautions in place and encouraging them to open for business as usual.
The violence continued, with seven people shot dead and another seriously injured in Kok Pho district of Pattani on Monday and Tuesday. In one incidents on Tuesday, a man riding on motorcycle pillion shot dead Ms Prapaporn Suwanno, an employee at a petrol station, and injured another attendant, 22-year-old Ms Leelavadi Boonlert.
On Monday, gunmen killed a married couple as they were riding on a motorcycle to tambon Kok Pho municipality.
Two defence volunteers were also killed by militants in Rangae district of Narathiwat on Tuesday as they were riding on a motorcycle. The assailants opened fire from a pickup truck.
On Wednesday, nine paramilitary rangers were injured in a roadside bomb explosion in Yaha district of Yala. The bomb was hidden in a motorcycle with a side car was detonated as the pickup truck carrying the rangers went passed it.