Regime warns Democrats not to stretch truth
Party insists it gave tips on rubber woes
The government has warned the Democrat Party against using the plight of rubber planters, who are facing hard times given falling prices of the commodity, for political gain.
Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd on Friday said instead of lambasting the government, the Democrat Party could have helped by giving useful advice on how to help rubber farmers.
Lt Gen Sansern made his comment in response to Democrat members who lambasted the government for failing to shore up rubber prices, and for violating freedom of expression by summoning leaders of a rubber farmer network for "attitude adjustment" at military camps last weekend.
The spokesman insisted the government has never barred people from expressing opinions or voicing proposals about the issue. He said the government just prefers them to go through proper channels. The appropriate channel to lodge complaints, he said, is through Damrongtham centres which are located at provincial offices across the country.
"The proposals should be raised in an appropriate way. No rallies or gatherings should be carried out," said Lt Gen Sansern, asking why rubber farmers insisted on going to protest in Bangkok when their plight has been widely reported by the media.
Last week, the military interrupted a large group of rubber farmers from travelling from the southern provinces to Bangkok, summoning four key leaders to military camps for attitude adjustment.
"As for some leaders who were taken to military camps, talks were held with them to boost their understanding. There were no threats or abuses against them," Mr Sansern insisted.
Democrat deputy spokeswoman Mallika Boonmeetrakul said that summoning leaders to military camps was not the right approach. "That will not solve any problem and furthermore it damages the government's image."
Rubber farmers need to travel to Bangkok as they have to talk to decision makers, she said, adding that those growers had lodged complaints at Damrongtham centres before, to no avail.
In responding to the question of why the party did not provide suggestions, Ms Mallika said this was untrue and over a year ago, 20 former Democrat MPs had submitted a letter with details of solutions to the rubber price problem, yet no progress had been made.
"The government is not effective in dealing with crop prices. It should stop sweeping the rubbish under the carpet because it is not constructive to do so," Ms Mallika said.
Former Democrat MP Watchara Phetthong said the government's penchant to summon critics for attitude adjustment in military camps was a threat to people's rights and freedom of expression. He insisted that despite Samrong Phetthong, one of the rubber farmer leaders who was taken into military custody last weekend being his relative, Mr Samrong was not a member of any political party.
Meanwhile, Deputy Democrat leader Thaworn Senneam posted a video clip in social media on Friday asking the prime minister to draw up a clear timeline for state agencies responsible for rubber products to follow, and ensure that officials responsible who fail to comply must step aside.
In the clip, Mr Thaworn said the government had allocated 16 billion baht from the 2017 fiscal budget and 11 billion baht from the 2018 fiscal budget for state agencies to use rubber in their projects, but the state organisations had failed to pursue the policy.
Mr Thaworn said he had proposed ways to tackle falling rubber prices to the government four times.