Protesters vow bigger rally as rubber talks fail

Suporn flees as angry farmers head to venue

Protesters are threatening to scale up their rallies over rubber prices after negotiations between the government and the demonstrators in Nakhon Si Thammarat collapsed Monday.

Suporn Atthawong, deputy secretary-general to the prime minister, held talks with rubber and oil palm farmers in Nakhon Si Thammarat province. The farmers are demanding the government shore up the prices of their crops. (Photo by Nucharee Rakrun)

Suporn Atthawong, deputy secretary-general to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, held a closed-door meeting with protest leaders in Chulabhorn district Monday afternoon.

A preliminary agreement was reportedly reached more than three hours later and Mr Suporn called a press conference to disclose details.

But as he was walking up the stairs to the room where the press conference was to be held, a group of security guards approached him. He was abruptly herded out of the building, where he got into his car and sped away.

It was later learned that Mr Suporn had been informed that a group of rubber farmers was on its way to surround the tambon Na Mo Bun administration office, where the negotiations had been held.

A source said the farmers disagreed with the agreement reached by Mr Suporn and the negotiators.

The farmers intended to confront Mr Suporn at the press conference, but when they learned he had already left, they returned to their protest base at Highway No.41 near the Khuan Nong Hong intersection in Cha-uat district.

At the meeting, it was decided the government would buy raw sheet rubber at 80 baht per kilogramme, rubber cup lump at 40 baht/kg and latex at 70 baht/kg.

The source said the protesters were satisfied only with the rubber cup lump and latex prices.

They wanted the government to buy the rubber sheet at 100 baht/kg.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, meanwhile, said the government had drawn up three options to help mitigate the impact of the low rubber prices, at a cost of about 25 billion baht.

The first option was the government would order the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co-operatives to spend 5 billion baht to buy latex from the farmers and save it for processing later, he said.

The second option, he said, would be for the Government Savings Bank to offer to give soft loans or no-interest loans totalling 10 billion baht to companies that would buy the latex for processing.

The last option was to provide a 10-billion-baht subsidy to the rubber farmers to help shoulder their high costs of production.

These options would be discussed at a later cabinet meeting, Mr Kittiratt said.

Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said he would call on certain politicians in the South to stop exploiting the farmers' problems for their own benefit.

He said a politician with an initial "S" was behind the rubber farmer rallies in the South and was attempting to arrange more protests in other regions.

In Chumphon province, Chumpol Julsai, Democrat MP for the province, led a meeting with eight local administration organisation leaders and reached an agreement to lead at least 5,000 farmers to rally at the city hall on Sept 2. They would then move onto join another group of protesters in Surat Thani the following day. Ris Kaewrak, the leader of the Chumphon rubber and oil palm protesters, said the demonstrators would push for 120 baht/kg for the rubber.

They would also demand 6 baht/kg for oil palm, up from the current price of 3.6 baht/kg, he said.

Rubber farmers in the eastern provinces also met in Chanthaburi on Monday and agreed to lead about 500 farmers to join the planned protest outside Government House on Sept 3, Narong Pathithin, president of the network of eastern rubber growers said.

Related search: THAILAND, rubber, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Suporn Atthawong, farmers, protests

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