Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Both sides suffer from violent clashes; New plan to pay rice farmers; MP registration by mail; Foreign investors continue retreat from stock market


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

On both sides, victims share the bitter pain of street clashes
Phuket Gazette / The Nation

PHUKET: A junior policeman has become a hero for kicking away a grenade in his bid to protect colleagues during a Bangkok clash – but his wife thinks his fame has come at too high a price.

“If I could choose, I just wish his legs returned to normal,” his 48-year-old wife said.

Her husband, Sen Sgt-Maj Thiradej Lekphu, said he acted out of instinct and a belief that it was better he was hurt than his colleagues dead. Mr Thiradej was gravely injured in the legs as the grenade went off while he was not fully protected behind his bullet-proof shield.

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It remains unclear who hurled the grenade into the line of shielded policemen. But on that same day, protester Satta Sae Dan was fatally shot while trying to help other demonstrators in the face of alleged police attacks.

Mr Satta has left behind a wife and three children, the youngest being just a year old.

“I am so sad. But I won’t give up my struggle against the current government,” Mr Satta’s wife Jongjit said.

“I am sure my husband would have supported my decision if he was still alive today.”

Mr Satta and his wife came to Bangkok on February 15 to join anti-government rallies. He was among four civilians killed as a result of the bloody clashes between police and demonstrators in the capital on Tuesday.

Also killed was Pol Senior Sgt Maj Phienchai Pharawat, 46. He worked at a police station in Rayong, but was summoned to Bangkok to deal with the demonstration.

“I hope the situation will end soon. I don’t want to see anyone else lose their beloved,” Mr Phienchai’s wife said tearfully.

Mr Phienchai has left behind a wife as well as two children, aged 15 and 12 years.

National police chief Adul Saengsingkaew said Mr Phienchai would be posthumously promoted to the rank of major and his children would receive scholarships until they earned bachelor’s degrees.

Commerce sets 3-prong plan to pay farmers
Phuket Gazette / The Nation

PHUKET: The Commerce Ministry yesterday launched a plan to raise funds to pay growers under the rice-subsidy project after the recent fiasco over lending by a state-run bank.

The Government Savings Bank (GSB) suffered large withdrawals over consecutive days after it granted a loan last week to the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC). Customers wanted to show their opposition to GSB’s alleged support of the controversial rice-pledging programme.

Caretaker Deputy Commerce Minister Yanyong Phuangrach said yesterday that a group of pro-government farmers, rice millers and the ministry would cooperate to encourage rice traders and others who wanted to help farmers withdraw their money from other banks to deposit at the BAAC. Once that happened, the BAAC should have sufficient revolving funds to assist the farmers who have not been paid for their pledged rice.

However, Mr Yanyong did not provide a clear opinion on whether this idea would be workable.

Moreover, he said the ministry would set up a “Thai Rice Farmers Assistance Fund”. Those who wanted to help the farmers could donate money to the fund at BAAC account number 020033119718. This measure was designed to assist the farmers in the short term.

For the long term, Mr Yanyong said that the ministry would establish a “Thai Rice Farmers Bank” to manage farmers’ money and ensure that they have their own financial institution and more liquidity.

He said the BAAC should have a method to transfer money from deposit accounts to pay farmers under the rice-pledging scheme to relieve their suffering.

Mr Yanyong added that he had withdrawn his own money from two commercial banks and deposited it in the BAAC to join the effort to help the farmers.

Asked about the practicality of his measures and their possible effect on the banking sector, he said there should not be any legal prohibition preventing people from helping farmers, as the BAAC should have authority to manage the money they deposit and pay the rice growers what they are owed.

However, according to the Bank of Thailand, payments to farmers under the pledging scheme should come from three sources: the national budget, the Finance Ministry’s borrowing and income from sales of rice from the state stockpiles.

Mr Yanyong said the proposed Thai Rice Farmers Assistance Fund would depend on donations and tax revenue paid by rice traders, which amounted to several billion baht.

The fund should be able to serve needy farmers interest-free, he added.

Wichian Phuanglamchiak, president of the Thai Agriculturist Association, said some farmer groups understood that the caretaker government could not meet its obligations under the pledging project as its normal sources of funds had been cut off. The Commerce Ministry’s proposals should increase the government’s ability to pay the farmers very soon.

Meanwhile, a survey this week by the National Institute of Development Institution found that 47.81 per cent of respondents did not believe the government could come up with all of the 130 billion baht it owes farmers before the end of this month.

About 16.76 per cent believed that the government could pay the farmers less than half that amount, while 16.23 per cent believed it could pay in full.

Foreign investors dump Bt31.1bn in stocks
Phuket Gazette / The Nation

PHUKET: Foreign investors continued their retreat from the local bourse yesterday amid the political clashes, selling a net 765 million baht in shares.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand Index slumped 0.39 per cent to 1,321 points on trading worth Bt30.79 billion.

So far this month, foreign investors have jettisoned a net 17.44bn baht in Thai shares. Since the beginning of this year, their net sales have climbed to 31.1bn baht.

Grenade hurled at police ‘not a stun bomb’
Phuket Gazette / The Nation

PHUKET: Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) chief Pol Col Kamthorn Uicharoen said yesterday that a grenade lobbed at the police during the operation to reclaim the Phan Fah Lilat Bridge area from protesters on Tuesday was a highly destructive M67 grenade, not a stun bomb as some people had speculated.

A video clip showing a police officer kicking the grenade away from himself and his colleagues before it exploded went viral on social media recently. The police officer and other security officials nearby were badly injured by the explosion.

Lt Col Songpol Lambunrit, a member of the Defence Industry Club, said US-produced M67 grenades are used by soldiers and the police, adding that he suspected that the assailant who hurled the grenade on Tuesday was highly trained because the safety clip could not be found at the scene.

He also dismissed claims that the grenade used on Tuesday was a stun bomb, saying stun bombs release white smoke after exploding, but the smoke exuded by the grenade in question was black.

Meanwhile, Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanatabut, who is secretary-general of the National Security Council, said investigators would study

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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