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Rubber farmer representatives cancel rally plan after being summoned to Army camp

Nov 12. 2017
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By The Nation

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The Trang Internal Security Operations Command has summoned two leading representatives of southern rubber growers, resulting in the pair’s withdrawal from a plan to rally in Bangkok on Monday to pressure Agriculture Minister General Chatchai Sarikulya.

Farmers are upset over what they see as Chatchai’s failure to adequately address falling rubber prices. 

Both Tanomkiat Yingchuan, an adviser to a network of rubber farmer groups, and Prathob Suksanan, president of the Trang rubber farmers network, were summoned at 11pm on Saturday night to a meeting at the Phraya Ratsadanu Pradit Camp. 

Prathob said he had heard while travelling to the Army camp that national security agencies had summoned leading members of rubber growers’ groups including those in Phatthalung to similar meetings, which he said was inappropriate. 

He also urged national security agencies to understand that rubber growers were in trouble due to the minister’s mismanagement, and the protest was meant to demand Chatchai take responsibility for the problem and solve the declining rubber prices.

Trang Governor Siripat Pattanakul said after a 30-minute meeting with Tanomkiat and Prathob that the Fourth Army Region chief had not summoned the two men as had been speculated, adding that he had done so to learn what farmers wanted and what the problem was. 

Siripat said he had offered to coordinate with relevant authorities including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to address problem and would offer the provincial authority’s opinion so that the issue could be addressed at all levels simultaneously. 

After the meeting, Prathob and Tanomkiat said they were confident that Siripat could help so Trang farmers would follow the authorities’ advice rather than join other regional rubber growers in the Bangkok protest on Monday. 

Rubber farmer groups are upset that during Chatchai’s term as minister the Thai Rubber Joint Venture Co Ltd was formed by the Thai Rubber Authority in collaboration with five major rubber firms allegedly to the detriment of small-scale farmers. 

Tanomkiat late last week said the joint venture was supposed to help farmers in principle, but in practice it had benefited large-scale investors, so his group would demand the Thai Rubber Authority withdraw from the venture and enforce rubber price management rules.

 

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