Protesters seek talks

Rubber farmers issue new demands

The Nakhon Si Thammarat rubber farmers' network is demanding the government hold more talks with farmers before the protest planned for Tuesday.

Signs remain in place in Nakhon Si Thammarat, warning motorists there is no through traffic on Highway 41, blocked by the protesterss. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Without talks, the problem could become far more complicated and difficult to deal with, the association said Saturday.

It also raised concerns over possible interference in the protest by a third party aimed at stirring up violence.

The protests that have been held at two main sites in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Cha-uat district since Aug 23 continued Saturday. The farmers association issued a written statement Saturday afternoon which consisted of five demands.

The association wanted the police to stop threatening and discrediting them, and it demanded the government guarantee a price for unsmoked sheet rubber of 120 baht per kilogramme and for oil palm at 7 baht/kg.

The association also wanted the government to send representatives to hold talks with them before Tuesday.

They also demanded the Nakhon Si Thammarat governor return all items seized from the protesters and compensate people injured as a result of the local authorities' operations.

Speaking during his visit to Surat Thani Saturday, PM's Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn reiterated that the government did not mean to treat the rubber farmers differently to any other farmers when it came to government subsidies or regulating agricultural product prices.

The government was facing criticism it had spent several hundred billion baht funding the rice-pledging scheme but refused to spend the same amount of money to help rubber farmers, he said.

It was impossible to use the same measures with both rice and rubber, because the two crops differed in several ways, and the average household incomes of rice farmers and rubber growers were also different, he said.

The harvest times of rice and rubber also were different, said Mr Varathep, adding that he would encourage the protesters to move beyond their false perception that the government was treating any particular region better than any other.

In Nakhon Ratchasima, Sithiporn Thepjantharamaneechai, president of the Northeastern rubber farmers' network, said farmers in the Northeast have split into two groups.

One was satisfied with Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Yukol Limlaemthong's promise to pay farmers a 1,260 baht per rai subsidy, said Mr Sithiporn.

But the other group had rejected the offer.

Related search: rubber, protests, blockade, highway, railway

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