Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Govt won’t budge on rice price; Cabinet V sworn in; Cameras out in Deep South attack

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Govt won’t budge much on rice price
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Despite increasing pressure from farmers, the National Rice Policy Committee is unlikely to budge on the new rice-pledging price of Bt12,000 per tonne, due to financial burdens, a government source has revealed.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong will chair the committee’s meeting today at which petitions by farmers will be discussed, along with the financial cost of the pledging scheme, which during the 2011/2012 harvest amounted to over Bt130 billion.

The source said the committee was not likely to give in to demands by farmers that the new price take effect in the next harvest year, as the price already covered the main crop, while only 2 million tonnes were expected from the excluded second crop.

“It remains to be seen how the committee will resolve the problem,” the source said. “If the new pledging price is maintained, the committee will also draw up measures to minimise the negative impact on farmers.”

Kittiratt said last week that the price could not remain at Bt15,000 given the current state of the global rice market. Thailand’s white rice is now quoted below US$500 per tonne (Bt15,000), inclusive of all export costs involved.

At best, the price may be raised slightly but not to the old Bt15,000 level. The pledging sum limit of Bt500,000 for each household may be lowered in that case, as over 80 per cent of farmers under the programme have earned no more than Bt300,000 per household.

Focus on four elements

Meanwhile, the committee’s secretary, Viboonluck Rumraksa, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, said that the committee would consider the government’s approach for the 2013/2014-harvest year with a focus on four elements. The scheme must not destroy fiscal disciplines such as the annual loss limit at Bt70-Bt80 billion.

The price is also set accordingly to global levels, with the domestic price slightly above. In addition, the price reflects the production cost, while benefits for farmers are compared to gains from other economic crops like sugar, oil palm and rubber.

“The department will present the overall plan and estimated losses at the meeting,” she said. “We will also propose a cut in the pledging sum per household limit, or a limit on household outputs, to ensure a larger number of households – as well as honour the fiscal disciplines.”

She explained that the output limit on, for example, 25 tonnes per household, would discourage farmers from focusing on quantity while ignoring quality. In previous harvest years, losses were found to have stemmed from low-quality rice.

The huge loss in revenue from the rice-pledging scheme is the main reason behind the government’s decision to reduce the pledging price from Bt 15,000 to Bt 12,000 per tonne, an academic said yesterday.

Nipon Poapongsakorn, a senior fellow at the Thailand Development Research Institute, said the reduction of the pledging price would also affect the price of rice on world markets. He was speaking at a seminar organised by Social Venture Network Asia (Thailand) entitled, “The Facts About Rice in Thailand: Who Will Become Rich and Who Poor?”

Nipon said he was also concerned that a reduction in the price would have a negative impact on rice prices in the local Thai market.

New Cabinet sworn in at Siriraj Hospital
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: His Majesty the King yesterday granted an audience to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and new Cabinet members for a swearing-in ceremony.

The ceremony took place at Siriraj Hospital, where the much-revered monarch has been undergoing treatment for years.

Yingluck and most of the new Cabinet members met at Government House yesterday afternoon for a group photo before heading to Siriraj Hospital.

Former deputy prime minister Chalerm Yoobamrung was not present for the group photo. He, however, joined Yingluck and other Cabinet members at the hospital for the swearing-in ceremony, which is compulsory for the prime minister and her Cabinet.

Yingluck, earlier yesterday, cut short her official visit to an immigration checkpoint and a temple in Mukdahan and flew back to Bangkok for the ceremony.

Before leaving for Bangkok, the PM visited the Phu Thai community and home-stay tourism in Mukdahan’s Nongsung district. The villagers there carried out the traditional welcoming ceremony of the Bai Sri Su Kwan for Yingluck to ward off bad luck and bring prosperity.

Government Spokesman Teerat Ratanasevi said Yingluck would today fly back to Mukdahan to carry out the remaining part of her engagements.

There are 11 newcomers in Yingluck’s Cabinet, including veteran politician and women’s rights activist Pavena Hongsakul.

As widely expected, Pavena got the post of social development and human security minister.

An Abac Poll of 467 respondents from Thursday to Saturday showed Pavena receiving overwhelming public support to head the Social Development and Human Security Ministry with 88 per cent backing her; 71 per cent approved PM Yingluck’s move to double up as defence minister; 70 per cent backed Chaturon Chaisang as the new education minister; 66 per cent agreed with the appointment of General Yuthasak Sasiprapha as deputy defence minister, but only 41 per cent backed Chalerm Yoobamroong to helm the Labour Ministry.

Cameras knocked out in latest Deep South attack
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Unidentified saboteurs put burning tyres on 20 security cameras at 12 spots across Narathiwat in the Deep South yesterday morning.

The sabotage was reported at about 4am.

“I have instructed local police to closely examine the security cameras in nearby areas to determine whether they could have recorded any suspect,” Narathiwat police chief Maj General Wichai Kasemwong said.

He believed moves to knock out security cameras were staged to fan unrest in the South.

Thailand’s southernmost region has been struggling with insurgency-related violence for nearly a decade.

On a road in Narathiwat’s Ra-ngae district, a banner went up with a message demanding the withdrawal of troops from the area. The pull-out is a key demand put forward by the BRN in its peace dialogue with Thai authorities.

Despite the ongoing talks, violent incidents continue to take place on a daily basis.

On Saturday, an explosion erupted in Yala, ripping through a military truck and killing eight soldiers about to head back to their base in Nakhon Sawan after completing their time in the Deep South.

The victims were Sergeant Major 1st Class Wiroj Khamruang, 51, Corporal Kromkrit Hetakarn, 27, Private Thirapong Duangsuwan, 23, Corporal Anon Pangsiri, 44, Private Thirapat Bannasarn, 23, Private Sakda Wongkham, 24, Private Pissanudej Hoysang, 24, and Private Sawang Namprai, 26.

Nearly 100 people including teachers and children expressed their grief when they showed up at Pattani Airport to bid farewell to the dead soldiers, whose base was close to a school.

The bodies of the soldiers were airlifted from Pattani to their home provinces.

In a related development, th

— Phuket Gazette Editors

Thailand News
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