Will postponing the election help Thai rice farmers?
Share this on

Will postponing the election help Thai rice farmers?

Veera last Friday had an op-ed on Friday entitled “Feb 2 election is not the solution” although the page title is “There are many reasons why the election should be delayed, with unhappy rice farmers not the least of them, says Veera Prateepchaikul”:

For the moment at least, the Feb 2 election is still on. Whether it will be held on schedule, or at all, remains the big question – there are many reasons why it should not.

The next big thing that the government will have to deal with is the threat of mass protests by the rice farmers if it again reneges on its most recent promise, that by Jan 15 they will get paid for the crops they pledged as long as five months ago.

The big problem for the government is that it has no money to pay the farmers. The Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, the main supporter of the rice pledging scheme, is short of cash and can’t help the government.

The government wanted the BAAC to set aside 55 billion baht of its deposits to pay the farmers, but the bank’s board has declined, explaining the use of the funds could cause a run on deposits that would put the bank in deep trouble.

Desperate for the needed cash, Deputy Finance Minister Thanusak Lek-uthai was reported to have demanded the BAAC draw on deposits from state enterprises, and not from the other depositors, to pay the farmers in order to stave off their planned protests.

Forget the Commerce Ministry, it won’t be coming to the rescue. There is no way that the ministry will be able to sell the stockpiled rice fast enough to get the much-needed cash in just a couple of days to pay the farmers — always assuming it can sell the rice at all.

Just imagine the grim scenario of angry farmers, the power base of the Pheu Thai Party, joining the protests, albeit for a different reason, led by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee?

Anyone who believes the election should go ahead as scheduled and that all the problems will then be automatically resolved is clearly out of their mind.

BP: The problem for the government now is that as a caretaker government it has limited powers which inhibits its ability to do so something new to pay the rice farmers. So how will postponing an election help this? Holding an election just so that a new government can be in place to pay rice farmers is not a good reason on its own to hold an election, but postponing an election will not help rice farmers.* Can anyone make any sense of Veera’s argument?

btw, Has anyone said all problems will be solved by an election? Talk about a straw man argument… Also, for the record, BP thinks it is time for the government to dump the rice pledging scheme and move to a direct subsidy or other form of assistance – see this post for the explanation.

*Well unless postponement results in a coup with the constitution ripped up and then well the coup government could do what it wants so this can easily guarantee payment…