Farmers in four districts of Pattani want a scheme to revive abandoned rice fields in the far South to continue despite the killings last week of two men sent there to train them.
About 200 farmers from Mayo, Panare, Nong Chik and Yaring districts met authorities to rally support behind the project.
They were met by Pol Col Thawee Sodsong, secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC), and Pattani governor Pramuk Lamul at the provincial administration organisation office in Muang district Sunday.
The farmers said the field rehabilitation project would give an economic boost to the region.
They said there is more than 100,000 rai of unused rice fields in the five provinces in the far South. It is estimated at least 30,000 rai are in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.
Meanwhile Thailand is hoping that the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Cairo this week will recognise efforts to tackle the southern insurgency. The government took 15 ambassadors and representatives from 17 Islamic countries to the region to see the situation for themselves.
The rice-growing programme funded by the SBPAC aims to draw farmers who gave up farming rice to grow rubber, back into growing rice in the fields.
Twenty farmers from Suphan Buri and Sing Buri had arrived in Pattani to teach farmers how to revive and improve rice yields in their abandoned fields.
The programme, however, faced a setback when two Sing Buri farmers were shot and killed and 10 others injured in a gun attack in Yaring district on Friday.
Most of the injured farmers said they wished to return home immediately after they are discharged from hospital.
Pol Col Thawee said the SBPAC will continue with the programme.
He has asked local farmers to look out for the safety of trainer farmers.
A security source said local authorities had not been officially informed about the programme, which explained why there were no security escorts nearby during Friday's attack. Police are tracking down the gunmen.
Asmoh Ngoh, a farmer from Mayo district, said the revival of rice farming will create jobs and spur the economy. He said security authorities and local farmers have a part to play in protecting the trainer farmers.
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Writer: Parez Lohasant & Abdulloh Benjakat