Southern Traffic Turns Chaos

Traffic in several southern provinces plagued by rubber protests turned into chaos today when protesters set up more blockades on several sections of the major Asia highway and roads to pressure the government after rejecting its subsidy offer.

Meanwhile the police have issued warrant for the arrest of a suspect responsible for the shooting to death a protest guard and wounding another in Nakhon Si Thammarat a week ago.

Wanted gunman was identified by police as Mr Kiattisak Chankong, a resident of Cha-aut district of Nakhon Si Thammarat, the place where the protest rally began. He was wanted for premeditated murder and possessing a gun and carrying it into public  without license.

Under the subsidy offer endorsed by the cabinet yesterday, a 5.62 billion baht fund will be drawn from the central budget to subsidize rubber farmers as proposed by the National Rubber Policy Committee. A 1,260 baht per rai of rubber plantation, limited to 10 rai per farmer will be provided in cash via the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) account directly to the farmers.

But the subsidy offer drew dismay from the protesters who wanted price guarantee as they saw the subsidy was not right to the point of the problem. They rejected and vowed to upgrade their protests to many places with the blockades of more roads and highways.

Some angry farmers also tried to block the road to the Surat Thani airport yesterday after learning of the offer but was not successful  after encountering a large number of anti-riot police with shields and batons lining the road to prevent them from blocking the traffic.

Nakhon Si Thammarat police chief  this morning reported traffic chaos at three locations of the Asia Highway – Nong Hong intersection in Cha-uat district of Nakhon Si Thammarat, Ban Toon railway crossing in the same district, and Asia Highway 41 between Ban Nongdee intersection in Naborn district.

In Phatthalung province, rubber farmers also blocked one lane of the Phetkasem highway from Phatthalung to Trang. But this blockade did not have serious impact on traffic.

Rubber farmers in Trang also blocked traffic near Andaman intersection in Huey Yod district but traffic was  light and still has no problem.

But in Surat Thani where is the significant venue of the protest as the farmers are still gathering in thousands still blocked the Asia High in front of the Co-Op  Office. All inbound and outbound traffic which is normally congested was turned to other routes instead to avoid the protesters.

In the eastern province of Rayong, police reported rubber farmers still gathered on the Sukhumvit highway on the inbound lane in front of the Rayong Governmetn Centre.

Source: News Center, Thai Rath