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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Rubber farmers want more than a subsidy, suspect graft
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Leaders of rubber farmers in the South have expressed disappointment with the government subsidy of Bt1,000 per rai, limited to a maximum of 15 rai each.

Tossapol Kwanrod, chairman of the rubber and palm oil farmers’ network in 16 southern provinces, said the government had ignored calls from the rubber farmers to offer sustainable solutions. It had opted to provide short-term remedies similar to those of previous governments.

Tossapol said the government had chosen to support capitalists by approving a budget for the Rubber Estate Organisation to buy the rubber and store it in warehouses.

“This measure is suspicious. We want the government to check rubber stocks to see if the 210-billion tonnes of rubber kept in storage earlier is still intact. By giving money to the organisation to buy rubber, we wonder if this is because rubber kept in store earlier is no longer in the stock,’ he said.

He said his group had called on the government to check the rubber stock two months ago, but their call had fallen on deaf ears.

“This makes us believe the rubber is no longer in storage. It disappeared from the time of the previous government. This government must [determine] if any irregularities took place in the previous government. We suspect that some warehouses may be burnt down to cover up evidence. If that is the case, we are sure that there is corruption in the scheme,’ he said.

He called for a panel to be set up to check rubber stocks the same way a panel was set up to check rice stocks.

He said his group would hold seminars to expose alleged irregularities in rubber storage.

Tossapol said his group had called on the government to support rubber farmers by constructing factories to transform rubber into products, setting up co-operatives or unions so farmers had bargaining power to leverage against capitalists. “We will protect our rubber farms, which have been our livelihood since our ancestors,’ he said.

He accused the government of helping only business people.

“Foreign companies have taken control of the market mechanism of agricultural produce. We have been pushed to the edge and have lost our land and can leave nothing much to our children.”

He vowed to exercise his right to demand state support to keep rubber farming as a livelihood for the next generation.

Boonsong Nabthong, president of the Rubber Farmers Confederation of Thailand, said the government subsidy to farmers of Bt1,000 per rai was just a short-term remedy. He said the government must come up with a rubber price restructuring, setting up industries to process rubber instead of solely relying on exports.

Sonthorn Rakrong, a rubber farmer leader, said farmers had over the past two years suffered losses due to the high cost of fuel and fertiliser. He said the government subsidy did not support all farmers but only farmers who have particular land title deeds.

— Phuket Gazette Editors