Thailand’s Election Commission gave the government approval on Tuesday to use a small sum from the central budget, 712 million baht ($22 million), to pay rice farmers who have been waiting months for payment from a state buying programme. The money will go a little way towards appeasing farmers protesting in Bangkok and their home provinces, but it is only a fraction of the 130 billion baht the government is estimated to owe nearly a million growers. “The Election Commission has approved a 712 million baht fund to help farmers, as requested by the government,” Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, an election official, said in a message posted on his Facebook page. The government is now looking for additional funds.
“The cabinet has approved 20 billion baht from the central budget to help farmers under the rice scheme and we will send this to the election commission for approval while the government waits for a large loan that the finance ministry is currently working on,” Commerce Minister Niwathamrong Boonsongpaisan told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved parliament in December and called an election for February 2 but polling was disrupted by anti-government protesters and is unlikely to be completed for many weeks.