Northern rice farmers threaten to block Asian Highway

Northern rice farmers threatened to blockade Asian Highway early next year if the government fails to pay for the rice they have pledged with the government under the rice-pledging scheme.

Hundreds of farmers in Phichit province blockaded the Asian Highway 117 from Phitsanulok to Nakhon Sawan today to pressure immediate payment but later agreed to remove the blockade after a talk was arranged with the representatives of the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, and the Internal Trade Department.

A farmer leader Prakasit Jaemjamrat said farmers in Phichit are now in trouble when they not only did not have money to grow new crop but also no money to afford their children to schools.

Many of them have to seek loans from unorganized money sources which charge very high on interest rates.

He said that if they did not get paid for their rice within tomorrow, they would blockade the highway.

But he said that since this was the period when people would travel to celebrate New Year, farmers would wait until next year to blockade the highway if they are not paid.

He said farmers have been promised several times by the commerce deputy minister but nothing have been met.

Most farmers were given vouchers for their pledged rice. When they brought their vouchers to claim cash from the bank, they were told that it has no money as the government has not yet allocated money to the bank to pay them.

At the negotiation today, bank representative offered to pay 30% of value in the voucher to ease their troubles temporarily.

Meanwhile the Internal Trade Department representative told farmers that they would be paid in mid January.

Negotiation is still on with farmers.