Chemical ban riles farmers
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Chemical ban riles farmers

Demand B820bn, threaten legal action

Following two years of debate over the use of three toxic farm chemicals, Thailand has finally banned them, but the move has sparked threats of legal action from one farmers group.

The 26-member National Hazardous Substances Committee (NHSC) on Tuesday voted to ban two herbicides -- paraquat and glyphosate -- and the pesticide chlorpyrifos, according to acting deputy permanent secretary for industry Panuwat Triyangkulsri, who chaired the meeting. Outside his ministry were 500 farmers from several provinces who opposed the ban.

Mr Panuwat said the committee had upgraded the three farm chemicals from Type 3 toxic substances to Type 4, which prohibits production, import, export or possession.

After hearing the outcome, Anchulee Lak-amnuayporn, a leader of the anti-ban farmers, said the group will next Monday petition the Administrative Court to issue an injunction suspending the ban, while also asking the committee to reconsider the move with new evidence.

The farmers want clarity on what options they will have to eradicate weeds after the ban comes into effect. They fear alternatives could be expensive and add to their already-high overheads.

She said the group will also pursue legal action against cabinet ministers, the NHSC, academics and activists who had provided "incorrect information" to back the ban.

Ms Anchulee said they will also wait until Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha returns from his Japan trip. "We heard from our coordinators that the prime minister ordered consultation forums for four groups. So far, only three groups have attended the forums," she said.

On Oct 7, representatives of the government, farmers and consumers unanimously voted for the ban at a forum which was not attended by agri-chemical businesses.

Meanwhile, Sukan Sangwanna, secretary-general of the Federation of Safe Agriculture, warned the government must prepare 820 billion in compensation after the ban -- 250 billion baht for farmers' lost income and 570 billion baht for lost exports.

The group also wants a debt moratorium for all farming households from the state-owned Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, fresh loans for machinery, and a government subsidy for purchases that exceed what they normally pay for paraquat.

"The farming sector must use non-chemical substitutes [to kill weeds] for the sake of health and the environment. So we ask the government to compensate us for the extra labour costs of 1.2 trillion baht a year to manually eradicate weeds.

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