World Bulletin/News Desk
Around fifty Thai rubber farmers gathered outside Bangkok's Government House on Tuesday, in defiance of martial law, to protest a draft rubber law and to demand the government buy their produce at higher prices.
Farmers in the world's top rubber producer have threatened to step up street action if the National Legislative Assembly does not scrap the draft law, which, they say, will not help shore up prices that are mired near five-year lows.
The draft aims to set up a Rubber Authority of Thailand, including farmers and representatives from the public and private sector, to oversee policy and prices, but protesters were concerned small-time farmers would be left out.
"We want the national assembly to scrap the draft because small-time rubber farmers will have very little say in it and it is not a genuine support measure," said Soontorn Rakrong, a spokesman for 14 farmer groups based in the south.
"If the national assembly does not scrap it then rubber farmers all over the country will rise up and protest."
Under martial law all protests and political gatherings of more than five people are banned. The junta that took power after a coup has cracked down on any form of dissent and last week dozens were detained for public displays of defiance.
"We will take this matter into consideration and take it up with the prime minister," said Amnuay Patise, an adviser to the Thai agriculture minister. He declined to give further details.
Several rubber farmers, based mostly in the south, supported anti-government protests earlier this year that culminated in the coup, but some say they feel betrayed because the junta had failed to soften the blow of plunging rubber prices.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief who led the coup, has warned farmers not to stage any demonstrations.
The government has ruled out the sort of intervention schemes that led to the ousting of the previous Yingluck Shinawatra-led government as they are costly and cause a build-up in stockpiles that then become difficult to sell.
Thai unsmoked rubber sheet was quoted at 48 baht per kg, which farmers say is far below the production cost of 65 baht.
"The global price is no more than 50 baht a kilo but our cost is around 65 baht. We are losing money and will fight until the end," said Soontoorn.Last Mod: 25 Kasım 2014, 10:39