Assembly whips to iron out problems with rice bill

Assembly whips to iron out problems with rice bill

Various types of rice on sale in a Bangkok market. Farm groups are closely watching the progress of the Rice Bill, and have promised 'huge protests' if it is not amended. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Various types of rice on sale in a Bangkok market. Farm groups are closely watching the progress of the Rice Bill, and have promised 'huge protests' if it is not amended. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The National Legislative Assembly whips will meet Tuesday in an attempt to clear up contentious points in the controversial rice bill, according to chief whip Jet Sirathraanon.

He said he believed there will be full clarity after the meeting. The bill, which passed the first reading by the NLA late last month, has been criticised by farmers who fear it will have a negative effect on their businesses.

The farmers have singled out Section 27 of the bill, which they say would prohibit the trading of rice seeds that have not been approved by the Rice Department.

They claim the section is designed to benefit large-scale commercial producers, and small-scale farmers, who have developed and relied on indigenous rice varieties, could find themselves in trouble with the law if they possess seeds without registering them with authorities.

Farmers and activists have threatened to stage a major rally in March if the bill is not withdrawn this month.

However, Deputy Commerce Minister Chutima Bunyapraphasara earlier said that critics were mistakenly commenting on an earlier draft, not the recently updated version.

According to Ms Chutima, the Commerce Ministry advised the NLA to amend the bill late last year since it disagreed with various aspects of it.

Dr Jet said the controversial points in the bill will be discussed with the government.

NLA member Kittisak Rattanaworaha, who initiated the bill, said the discussion will also be attended by cabinet members and representatives of the Council of State, the government's legal arm. The bill needs careful consideration from all relevant parties because it is regarded as a piece of financial legislation, he said.

He insisted the NLA felt no pressure from the political parties, including the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party, which disagreed with the bill.

Mr Kittisak explained the draft bill has been revised to drop wording that would legally affect the rice farmers. Details would become clearer at the meeting as to the changes which have been made.


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