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Protesting Thai farmers get support from anti-govt demonstrators

Thai rice farmers protesting at the Commerce Ministry north of Bangkok are receiving support in the form of food and drink from anti-government protesters led by Suthep Thaugsuban.

NONTHABURI: Thai rice farmers protesting at the Commerce Ministry north of Bangkok are receiving support in the form of food and drink from anti-government protesters led by Suthep Thaugsuban.

The march of the rice farmers near the Thai capital has piled more pressure on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government, which has so far failed to finance its flagship rice pledging scheme, now US$4.3 billion in debt.

It is estimated that over three million households of rice farmers and others in the Thai agricultural sector have been affected by months of delayed payment.

With new harvesting season around the corner, the farmers can no longer wait for the government to sort out its troubled scheme.

Mrs Panchit, a rice farmer from Aung-thong province, said: "I haven't been paid for my last harvest at the end of September. The warehouse slip hasn't arrived. I submitted my application on November 3 last year."

Rice farmers from central and western Thailand have vowed to camp out at the Commerce Ministry on the outskirts of Bangkok, demanding the government to pay up for their crops.

Supplies of food and water have been arriving regularly at the Commerce Ministry, mostly from the supporters of the anti-government movement in Nonthaburi and Bangkok.

Mr Suthep's anti-government movement hopes the street protests will gain momentum and end the ongoing political stalemate.

The rice farmers, many of whom have had to endure months of hardship, have welcomed the show of support.

Mr Sa-nae, a rice farmer from Kanchanaburi, said: "This is the first time in a while that I got to eat nice food. It is donated, I don't know from whom, and we are very surprised by all the food we've received."

Another rice farmer from Kanchanaburi, Mrs Dock-jung, said: "I would like to thank the kindness of those who have helped us out. I am grateful that they have not forgotten the suffering of poor rice farmers like ourselves."

For now, it remains unclear whether the government will be able to find a quick remedy to its troubled rice pledging scheme.  

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