Diesel price feud drags on

Diesel price feud drags on

PM orders B30 peg; trucker strike fears

Lorries are seen parked along Bang Na-Trat Road during the 'Truck Power' protest on Tuesday. Protesting truckers are demanding diesel prices be reduced and maintained at 25 baht a litre to offset soaring transport costs. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
Lorries are seen parked along Bang Na-Trat Road during the 'Truck Power' protest on Tuesday. Protesting truckers are demanding diesel prices be reduced and maintained at 25 baht a litre to offset soaring transport costs. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered the price of diesel, the essential component of goods and transport costs, to be pegged at 30 baht per litre, well above the 25 baht per litre demanded by protesting haulage operators.

The prime minister on Tuesday told relevant agencies to figure out how to keep the diesel price at 30 baht for as long as possible.

Gen Prayut has expressed his concern over rising goods prices on the back of rising diesel prices as the global cost of fuel could increase further due to various factors including deteriorating relations between the world's superpowers.

Looking to home, he said the Oil Fuel Fund, which has helped stabilise fuel prices, has its limitations.

Gen Prayut has called for a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow and related agencies to tailor measures to prevent diesel-price fluctuation and the price of everyday goods being jacked up.

The Energy Ministry had earlier given a lukewarm reaction to demands by protesting haulage operators to peg the price of diesel at 25 baht per litre, saying 30 baht was the most practical compromise.

Mr Supattanapong insisted that going lower than 30 baht a litre was out of the question. The ministry was reacting to the protest campaign by the so-called "Truck Power" group in several provinces on Tuesday.

Truck drivers plied main roads with posters and banners strung on the sides of their vehicles attacking the high diesel prices.

Thongyoo Kongkan, advisory chairman of the Land Transport Federation of Thailand (LTFT), said more than 1,000 lorries participated in Tuesday's protest.

They drove along seven main routes in some provinces in a "silent" protest against the steep diesel prices, which climbed to 29 baht/litre on Tuesday. They insisted the government must bring the price down and maintain it at 25 baht/litre.

The excise tax must also be lowered by five baht/litre and the contribution to the Oil Fuel Fund must be suspended for a year, they demanded.

Mr Thongyoo said if these demands, which were presented to the government on Tuesday, were not met, haulage operators would intensify their campaign throughout this month.

Blaming the government for neglecting the country's fuel problem, he said the soaring costs of freight and passenger transport have worsened the living conditions of people already battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Yesterday's move was only the beginning. If the government pays no heed to the issue, we will take our campaign to the next level," he said.

Mr Thongyoo said a nationwide strike was also on the cards with 10-30% of the trucks to stop running if their demands continued to be ignored.

On Tuesday, the routes on which the trucks carried out their protests included: Rama II Road from Muang district of Ratchaburi to Borommaratchachonnani Road in Nakhon Pathom; the Asian highway in Ayutthaya, Bang Na-Trat Road connecting to western Kanchanaphisek Road; Sukhumvit Road in Si Racha district of Chon Buri to the motorway; and the road linking Warin Chamrap district and Muang district of Ubon Ratchathani.

The federation's advisory chairman said the operators would not block roads, however, adding the protests would run for specific periods only.

LTFT chairman, Apichit Pairoongrueng, said the truckers' demands would benefit everyone, not just operators.

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