World Bulletin/News Desk
Thousands of Thai farmers called off a protest drive to Bangkok on Friday after overnight assurances from the prime minister that they would start to receive payment for rice submitted to a government pledging scheme.
The farmers - many driving a multicolored fleet of around 1,000 tractors decorated with the red, white and blue Thai flag - had planned to mass at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.
But the caretaker government moved swiftly to prevent the more than 5,000 farmers from massing at the country's international air traffic hub.
The thought of the huge and potentially volatile mob descending on Suvarnabhumi rang alarm bells among government and business leaders, who feared a repeat of an airport blockade by protesters in 2008 - a crisis which brought down the then-government, and cost the country billions in tourist revenue.
The farmers were led by Chada Thiseth - a member of the Chart Thai Pattana Party - which is a minor partner of the government.
Thiseth told reporters Friday that he had negotiated a settlement last night with former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat - a brother-in-law of former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and married to the elder sister of current PM Yingluck.
"The government will make payment next week... If it isn't delivered, we will return," Thiseth told reporters in Ayutthaya, just north of Bangkok.
Payments are understood to start next week.
The Yingluck Shinawatra government has been scrambling to find funds to pay an estimated 110 billion baht (about US$3.5 billion) to some 1.5 million farmers owed money for crops submitted under the highly controversial price-pledging scheme.Last Mod: 21 Şubat 2014, 11:39