PRIME MINISTER General Prayut Chan-o-cha made his first official inspection of the year, meeting with officials and a farmers' co-operative yesterday in Phimai district in Nakhon Ratchasima - his home town - to address problems that farmers face.
The PM said he picked Phimai because the cooperative there was strong and unified and he wanted to learn how to help other farmers’ cooperatives to follow this one’s success.
Farmers in Phimai grow a special rice variety called Rice-burry – a mix of jasmine rice and a strong local Kor Khor purple breed – that yields quality rice with high anti-oxidants.
Prayut said the price of the rice soars as the variety becomes more popular but he wanted the cooperative to ensure the right balance between demand and supply, so there was no problem of oversupply.
He said he would heed the opinion of farmers, consumers and producers about distribution channels for inexpensive rice as he did not want rice sales to adversely affect the price of crops in normal seasons.
The PM is aware of substandard rice being sold to consumers and told officials to monitor and solve the problems.
He said the government would continue its campaign against growing off-season crops because of water shortages and the low quality of rice produced off-season.
“This year we need water to flush away saline water and make tap water for consumption,” he said.
The meeting was carried out under heavy security with bomb-detecting devices and EOD officials checking people and their bags as they passed through entrances and exits.
People attending the event were obliged to have a thermometer test to ensure they did not have fever (38 degrees Celsius).
Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda said he believed there would not be any disturbance because the PM was going there to help the people.
Khon Kaen University students staged a symbolic anti-coup protest when Prayut gave a speech at a seminar in the province in November.
Meanwhile, the red shirts said they had no plans to upstage the PM.
“We will not deploy anyone to lift three fingers,” Anuwat Thinrat, former chairman of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, said yesterday.
Prayut will meet farmers and local officials in Phimai district to discuss rice policy and management.
Anuwat said security officials had been keeping him and former co-leaders under surveillance for fear they would stage political activities against Prayut.
However, the group had suspended political activities and the PM should not worry.
“The PM can continue in his post for no matter how many years. We will not protest but support him. But we ask him to help solve the problem of plummeting prices for produce like rice, tapioca and sugarcane,’’ he said.
Prayut should refrain from enforcing laws with double standards. “That puts people in an uncomfortable situation,’’ he said.
Pol Maj General Thakoon Nattheesri, chief of Nakhon Ratchasima police, instructed officers to beef up security to prevent a repeat of the Khon Kaen University students’ stunt.
He ordered police to monitor moves by political groups and deployed officers to state buildings that may be viewed as political symbols, such as the Prem Tinsulanonda building hall, Provincial Hall, the provincial anti-graft building and the residence of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda.
More than 300 police, including an anti-riot unit, would be stationed to maintain order for Prayut’s trip.
Provincial Police Region 3 were instructed to ensure officials were on standby while Prayut is in the area.