Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra insisted that Thailand’s government-to-government rice deals are legitimate and that the rice pledging scheme will proceed despite a Senate move to temporarily suspend the programme.
Thai Government denies accusation of corruption, or poor management criticism
She said the government had earlier consulted the Council of State which ruled that the deals could go ahead.
The premier added that farmers will continue to sell rice to the government under the scheme at Bt15,000 per tonne–a price which she described as fair. The Thailand Development and Research Institute earlier argued that the pledging price should not be higher than Bt13,000 per tonne. She said the scheme will not help farmers if the pledging price is too low.
A group of 68 senators has petitioned the Constitution Court, seeking an injunction to suspend the G-to-G rice deals, which have an impact on Thai people nationwide, unless the government gets approval from parliament as stipulated in Section 190 of the constitution.
The government-sponsored rice pledging scheme and G-to-G rice deals, a consequence of excessive rice stockpiles, have been heavily criticised by former cabinet members, academics, politicians and the public.
Some blamed the government for pushing ahead with the superfluous spending at taxpayer expense which they said will eventually lead the nation to bankruptcy. Some said the pledging scheme lacks transparency and leads to widespread corruption.
Recently Thailand’s rice intervention programme has slowed because the government is running out of space to store the grain it buys, with stocks already at a record high.
Faced with storage problems for large amounts of rice which are being purchased at more than market rates, Thailand’s Public Warehouse Organisation PWO and Transport Ministry will together inspect aircraft hangars at airports nationwide to determine if they can be turned into warehouses to stockpile rice.
PWO deputy director Somsak Wongwatanasarn said today that the airport survey is in light of an earlier proposal by former transport minister Sukumpol Suwanatat, now defence minister, that unoccupied hangars in some provincial airports may be suitable for stockpiling paddy from the government’s rice pledging scheme, if necessary.He said a thorough hangar-to-warehouse study is needed to ensure the acceptability of each structure which will have to accommodate tens of thousands of tonnes of rice.
Farmers in several provinces complained they were unable to sell paddy to the government as millers were refusing to take it. Millers generally take the rice from the farmers, giving them a certificate for money they can claim at a state bank.