Thai rubber farmers like new government aid offer

AP News
Posted: Sep 10, 2013 12:10 PM

HAT YAI, Thailand (AP) — Representatives of protesting rubber farmers in Thailand who have been demanding government subsidies because of falling prices responded favorably Tuesday to a new compensation offer.

The Cabinet approved a 21.2 billion baht ($657 million) program for the farmers, who have been blocking roads and railways to press their case. They had threatened further militant action on Saturday.

The government offer has not yet been formally accepted, and some farmers' representatives have been taking a more hard-line stand than others in their demands, even though they have been acting as a bloc in dealing with the government.

A farmers' network coordinator from Songkhla province, Thanapon Thongwan, said he was satisfied with the offer and will consult with colleagues from other provinces on Friday. Bandit Rammak, an organizer in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, also said he agreed with the measure and would discuss it with local farmers.

The government said it would give rubber farmers 2,520 baht ($78) per rai (0.4 acre, or 0.16 hectares) of land, double what it offered last week. The farmers had been demanding they be paid a guaranteed price for their product. The government already maintains an expensive subsidy program for rice farmers.

The disruptive but generally peaceful protests turned violent last week, in one case leaving more than 20 police officers injured after bricks and bottles were hurled at them. Actions threatened this weekend include shutting down a port, a border checkpoint and a major road junction in the south, where most of the country's rubber is grown.

Thailand is the world's top producer and exporter of natural rubber, which is used in products from condoms to car tires. Due to weaker demand in a sluggish global economy, prices for rubber have steadily dropped since peaking in 2011.