Rice bill critics not clued up on latest draft, says minister
Deputy Commerce Minister Chutima Bunyapraphasara tried Tuesday to placate opponents of the controversial rice bill, saying critics are mistakenly commenting on the previous draft, not the recently updated version.
"Efforts have been made to present confusing and not-up-to-date information [about the bill] to the public through various media channels," Ms Chutima posted on Facebook.
She stated that her opinions of the original bill late last year had also been picked up by the media, which could be misleading.
According to Ms Chutima, the Commerce Ministry advised the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to amend the bill late last year since it disagreed with various aspects of it.
The bill, which will be deliberated by the NLA today, has been updated in line with most of the ministry's recommendations, she said.
The deputy minister insisted the updated bill would not put farmers at a disadvantage.
Protesters have hit out at Section 27 of the bill, which they said prohibits the trading of rice seeds that have not been approved by the Rice Department.
They say this section was designed to benefit large-scale commercial producers and small-scale farmers, who have developed and relied on indigenous rice varieties, would get into trouble.
Ahead of the bill's second and third readings today, farmers and activists in various provinces have come out to demand the legislation be scrapped.
Some farmers' groups have threatened to stage a major rally next month if the bill is not withdrawn this month.
Democrat deputy leader Korn Chatikavanij, meanwhile, criticised the NLA's haste to deliberate the bill on his own Facebook page, writing that they should wait until after the election instead.
"It is not clear how farmers will benefit from this legislation," Mr Korn, also a former finance minister, wrote.
According to him, the legislation should have included elements that really address farmers' problems, such as easy access to markets and capital and technology that could help develop crop production.