Government ponders tougher measures
2 protesters shot during clashes at rubber rally
- Published: 17/09/2013 at 12:41 AM
- Online news:
The government is considering the use of special emergency laws to control rubber farmer protesters in the South, Thawat Boonfueng, deputy secretary-general to the prime minister, has said.
A police truck was among vehicles set ablaze during a clash between rubber farmers and police using tear gas at the Khuan Nong Hong intersection in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Cha-uat district. (Photo by Nucharee Rakrun)
Protesting rubber and oil palm growers clashed with police and resumed their highway blockade in Cha-uat district of Nakhon Si Thammarat province just hours after officers cleared the demonstration Monday morning.
About 70 police officers were injured in the clashes and about 10 police vehicles were set alight in the scuffle.
Protesters also seized a Thai PBS TV production truck and erased footage of the clash.
- Earlier report: Rubber protest gets ugly
There were several injuries on both sides, including two protesters - a man and a woman - who were shot in their legs. It was not clear who fired the shots. Both were taken to Maharaj Nakhon Si Thammarat Hospital.
Pol Maj Gen Thawat said the situation has become worse to the point where it is now beyond the scope of the public disaster prevention law under which police have so far handled the protests. Reports from the scene early Tuesday said police had ordered a curfew, to try to quell the violence.
The protesters are growing in number, he said. Most are teenagers, and the authorities do not know who they are being led by. Pol Maj Gen Thawat said the protesters were abusing drugs and were drunk.
Police withdrew from the intersection around 2-3pm Monday.
National police chief Adul Saengsingkaew will decide whether a special law should be used to control the protesters, Pol Maj Gen Thawat said.
The laws being considered include the Internal Security Act and the Emergency Decree.
Over 1,000 protesters continued to gather at Khuan Nong Hong intersection last night to block Highway No.41. They blocked the intersection with burnt police vehicles.
Nakhon Si Thammarat governor Wiroj Jiwarangsan Monday declared Khuan Nong Hong intersection a dangerous zone and advised people to stay away from the area.
He said the situation was out of control and the area was sliding into anarchy.
Pol Maj Gen Yongyuth Charoenwanich, commander of Provincial Police Region 8, said two rifles, a pistol, flak jackets and tear gas canisters went missing from burnt police vehicles, and only one rifle was returned later.
The protesters had set up roadblocks since last Saturday to demand the government raise its price guarantee for unsmoked rubber sheet to 100 baht per kilogramme and introduce a 6-baht/kg price guarantee for oil palm nuts.
Most rubber farmer representatives earlier accepted the government's offer of a 90-baht price guarantee and a 2,520-baht-per-rai cultivation subsidy.
About 300 police officers, mostly from riot control units, managed to clear the protesters and their blockades - which included branches, concrete pipes, tents, tables and chairs - from Khuan Nong Hong intersection about 7am Monday. There were only 20-30 protesters manning the blockade at the time, and all fled at first sight of the approaching riot police.
The road was reopened to traffic shortly afterward.
At noon, however, about 1,500 protesters, mostly local teenagers, returned to the intersection and attacked officers with catapults and rocks, police said.
Police returned fire with tear gas canisters, but were apparently overwhelmed and retreated from their position at the intersection. The protesters then resumed their road blockage.
It was reported that protesters, mostly the young ones, were from other southern provinces and mobilised to reinforce the blockade.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong insisted the government had already helped farmers by offering a price of 90 baht/kg for unsmoked rubber sheet and subsidising farmers at 2,520 baht per rai.
He said the rubber policy committee had studied the issue thoroughly and the government's offer was the best it could manage.
The government will no longer enter into negotiations with the protesting farmers, Mr Kittiratt said.
PM's Office Minister and Deputy Agriculture Minister Varathep Rattanakorn echoed those comments, saying the 90-baht deal was final and that 120 baht was too high. Suporn Atthawong, deputy secretary-general to the premier, wondered if some rubber profits would go to a political party.
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- Writer: Post Reporters