Chemicals ban row set to escalate
Farmers plan rally, seek two year transition period
Opposition to the state's ban on three harmful herbicides looks set to escalate as farmers gear up to defy an order to hand over the chemicals to authorities amid plans for a rally on Tuesday.
The prohibition against the trade, use and possession of paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos -- announced late last month by the National Hazardous Substances Committee (NHSC) -- will take effect from Dec 1 but opponents are challenging its enforcement and have refused to follow orders as the deadline draws near.
"Farmers will not hand the chemicals to the Department of Agriculture and Cooperatives," Sukan Sangwanna, secretary-general of the Federation of Safe Agriculture, said.
"We bought them with our money when they were still legal products."
The farmers' stance is worrying for authorities as they are committed to the ban of the chemicals, form which they had earlier issued licences.
Their attempt to "recall" the three pesticides, which began last week, should not be allowed to proceed at the moment, the anti-farm chemical group, Biothai Foundation, wrote on its Facebook page yesterday.
"It is acceptable to delay the ban until the end of next month," foundation director Witoon Lianchamroon suggested.
"But if the committee [NHSC] changes its decision, the government will not be pleased."
Mr Witoon insisted officials must solve the problem and that in this case they must give farmers and sellers more time to make the transition. However, he added the ban should remain.
Yet opponents of the ban -- who are mainly worried over the economic impact of such a move -- want the NHSC to give farmers and business people at least two years to prepare for the change.
During this transitionary period, a search for new alternatives should be carried out.
Mr Sukan said his group, who will gather at the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry on Tuesday in a peaceful protest, hopes to discuss their concerns with minister Chalermchai Sri-on.
The protesters, who plan to wear black clothes to highlight their opposition, will then proceed to meet Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House the same day.
Mr Sukan was dissatisfied yesterday with a report suggesting that deputy minister for agriculture and cooperatives Mananya Thaiset, who supports the ban, allegedly said "white-clad rally-goers" will deal with black-clad protesters if they pile pressure. "That should not be the words spoken by the minister," he said.
The NHSC will meet on Wednesday to discuss the situation after it was revealed by its chairman and Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit that 75% of more than 48,000 people said they disagreed with the ban during a recent survey revealed at a public hearing. "I can't tell whether we can ban the chemicals in time on Dec 1. I need to consult at the meeting," Mr Suriya said.