10-year-old rice fit for human consumption, Phumtham to prove on Monday

SUNDAY, MAY 05, 2024

Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai reiterated on Sunday that over 145,000 sacks of rice stored for years at two warehouses in Surin province are still of good quality and edible.

Responding to criticisms that he was trying to whitewash former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s rice-pledging scheme, Phumtham said he would lead a group of reporters to the two rice warehouses in Surin on Monday when he would prove the rice quality by eating it in front of reporters.

Phumtham appeared to be responding to remarks by Thai Phakdee Party leader Warong Dejwikrom, who said that the deputy PM was trying to whitewash the rice-pledging scheme for Yingluck by affirming the rice stored for over 10 years at the two warehouses was still edible.

In March, Phumtham inspected the Poolphol Trading Co warehouse in Surin’s Muang district and Kittichai warehouse in Prasat district from where he took samples of rice to cook and eat in front of reporters.

The Poolphol warehouse has 32,879 sacks of rice and the Kittichai warehouse 112,711 sacks. The Yingluck government had bought the rice under its controversial rice-pledging scheme.

After the Yingluck government was toppled by the 2014 coup, the rice-pledging scheme was investigated for fraud and corruption. The rice at the two warehouses were frozen as evidence. Yingluck was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for negligence in oversight of the pledging scheme.

During his visit in March, Phumtham said his government would put the rice at the two warehouses on auction soon now that the rice-pledging case was over.

Academics have warned that the rice, stored for over 10 years, might not be good or safe for human consumption, especially after it had been exposed to anti-weevil sprays for over a decade.

Phumtham said on Sunday that he would like all the critics to join his trip to the two warehouses on Monday.

He said he would take samples of the rice from the middle of the piles and would cook the rice and eat it with “phat kraprao” — spicy stir-fried minced pork with basil.

Phumtham said he would prove the rice was still in good condition and the stockpiles would be auctioned off within this month.