The government will assign more representatives and install security cameras at all rice-buying points to deter corruption, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said yesterday.
Currently three representatives _ one each from the farming and milling sectors and the government _ are on hand to witness the purchases of rice under the state pledging scheme.
Two more people from each of the three groups will be added to ensure transparency, the minister said.
Two policemen would also monitor activities and security cameras would be deployed at all buying locations, he said.
While promising greater transparency when it comes to local rice buying, Mr Boonsong has refused to do the same when it comes to rice selling. He said Thailand has government-to-government agreements with a handful of countries to sell 7.3 million tonnes of rice. He refused to release details, saying they were politically sensitive.
Rice pledging for the 2011-12 fiscal year is estimated to have cost taxpayers 359 billion baht. A budget of 405 billion has been set aside for the 2012-13 fiscal year which began on Oct 1.
Mr Boonsong was speaking on the government's weekly TV programme, which was dedicated to defending the controversial rice scheme.
Other senior officials on the programme included permanent-secretary for commerce Vatchari Vimooktayon, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department Pranee Siriphand, Thai trade representative Olarn Chaiprawat, and Kanit Sangsubhan, director of the Fiscal Policy Research Institute.
Mr Boonsong gave his assurances that the government would be able to sell more rice from the state's stocks by year's end. Besides selling it under the government-to-government deals, the ministry would target the private sector including rice exporters and millers.
The rice stocks will also be sold to state agencies such as the Corrections Department, Defence Ministry and for donations to disaster-hit people.
Ms Vatchari said the ministry would monitor state warehouse management to make sure the government's warehouse rental budget is spent properly.
As the government was struggling to prove it had sold rice to foreign countries, Iraq's Trade Ministry on Friday issued a statement saying the country had bought 100,000 tonnes of rice from Thailand.
The purchase followed a tender for 30,000 tonnes that closed on Oct 7, the ministry said in the statement.
Olam International will supply 70,000 tonnes of Thai rice, and Louis Dreyfus will supply the remaining 30,000 tonnes, it said.
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