Fishermen vow 10,000-strong rally
Bangkok protest to last 'until Jan 15'
Fishing groups from 22 coastal provinces on Thursday vowed to gather in Bangkok for a mass rally to pressure the government into relaxing laws and regulations they say are threatening their livelihoods.
"We've already notified Nang Loeng police station as required by the law on public gatherings. And more than 10,000 people from 22 provinces will turn up," said Mongkon Sukcharoenkhana, president of the National Fisheries Association of Thailand (NFAT).
The protesters will rally outside the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry until Jan 15 or until their demands are met with a firm promise of remedies for affected parties, he said.
"If the government refuses to respond to our calls, it should buy all our fishing equipment and trawlers, as we can no longer go out to work [due to the harsh regulations]," he said.
Alongkorn Ponlaboot, adviser to Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalermchai Sri-on, on Wednesday asked the fishing groups to halt their planned protest in the capital.
Mr Alongkorn insisted the ministry has complied with eight of the fishermen's 11 demands, saying the rest have been forwarded to other agencies.
He also cited a 10.3-billion-baht loan to support fisherfolks' liquidity granted by the Bank of Agriculture and Agriculture Cooperatives and Saving Bank.
Mr Mongkon, however, said the fishing groups want Mr Chalermchai to go further, because as minister he has the power to propose the legal amendments being urged by fishermen.
A joint effort by fishing groups and the government to resolve the dispute, which began after this government took office, had gone nowhere, he said. Mr Alongkorn, who chairs the government's committee on tackling fishing problems, had called weekly meetings which had proved fruitless and cost fishermen money to travel to Bangkok, said Mr Mongkon.
Over the past five years, state agencies have rolled out new regulations and announcements that are affecting the fishing sector severely, with little redress for the problems they face, he said. The fishing groups want the government to halt any new regulations and amend existing ones to mitigate their impact, he said.
Fishermen forced to abide by the stiff laws and regulations have seen their operating costs soar, while prices fetched by their catch have fallen as imported fish floods the local market, he said.