How Rice is Causing a Crisis in Thailand  (Page 2 of 2)

Critics also say that coalition politicians are taking kickbacks on contracts from the millers and exporters to whom they have chosen to sell quotas of rice overseas, all while many of the poorest farmers are seeing their prices reduced significantly by the time the money filters down the food chain, albeit while still earning more than before Yingluck Shinawatra took power.

“We don’t know how much rice is in the warehouses, how much is being exported and how much the farmers are actually making – we don’t know anything,” says Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut.

Kreetha Charatkulangkun, director of Tek Seng Rice Mill, a rice export company based in Bangkok, says the scheme has proven devastating for the country’s rice industry.

For years, Thailand was the world’s number one exporter in the world, but is expected to slip to the third position this year, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimating it will export 6.5 million tons of rice in 2012 compared with India’s 9.75 million tons and Vietnam 7 million tons.

“In my and many other opinions, the government’s rice-pledging scheme is very extreme and is clearly a vote-buying policy,” says Kreetha. “It is the worst political policy in the history of Thailand.”

As enemies of the state’s rice scheme have queued up to criticize Yingluck’s government, most have pointed fingers squarely at her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has calmly defended the policy in exile where he remains on the run from a two-year prison term for corruption. A day rarely passes without a Thai newspaper reporting on efforts by Yingluck to smooth her brother’s passage back to Thailand.

Meanwhile, the main farming areas in the north of the country remain as supportive of the current government as they were of Thaksin when he was in power from 2001 to 2006.

In a poll last month by Khon Kaen University in the northeastern Isan region (which includes Nakhom Phanom province), 81% of respondents said they supported the government’s overall performance, even if only 46.8% backed its performance on the economy, a figure much lower than in many other areas including the coalition’s handling of democratization, social issues like crime and drug use, foreign policy, and environmental protection.

Suthin Wainwiwat, director of E-Saan Poll which conducted the survey, said as long as the Shinawatras continue their populist policies aimed at the millions of families who farm in the north they will remain unstoppable at the ballot box, no matter the criticism in Bangkok.

“They support Yingluck because they hope that Thaksin will be able to come back and help them again,” he said.

Steve Finch is a freelance journalist based in Bangkok. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, TIME, The Independent, Toronto Star and Bangkok Post among others.

David, Thailand
July 21, 2013 at 11:57

I'm British. Does that mean I have no right to comment on the actions of any other government? It's your kind of mentality that helps keep Thailand firmly in the league of Third World countries.

March 3, 2013 at 04:14

Now that we know that Thai rice has some of the lowest levels of inorganic arsenic, maybe someone in Thailand can figure out how to market that and export to the US where consumers pay more for healthier products. 

January 28, 2013 at 22:41

Why are you guys ( butting heads ) ? None of you have a Thai name and probably don't have a vested interest and could give a crap less what the price of rice is and on top of that it is probably none of your damned business what the Thai government does !!.

November 28, 2012 at 13:36

Your view is wrong.

Andrew Spooner
November 21, 2012 at 17:10

You wrote "Is it too late to build a nice big climate controlled high tech rice storage warehouse and get my piece of the government pie?"
I think I am right in saying the biggest river of money flowing from government coffers to private companies in world history is that paid by US taxpayers for military hardware to privately owned arms manufacturers.
My advice? If you really want to get rich at taxpayers' expense make weapons in the USA. 

Andrew Spooner
November 16, 2012 at 17:29

David Chasm
There is no debate to be had with someone who is so incoherent that they attempt to equate criticisms of a misguided article about Thailand's rice growing subsidy programme with those responsible for the slaughter of 2million people.
November 16, 2012 at 12:59

The point is that you can't tweak an agricultural policy that is completely broken. Your apparent offense at the KR thing is as superficial as your arguments.
And, of course, to respond to some of these points would actually require engaging on the issue in a reasoned fashion. I notice you haven't actually attempted to debate a single point I have raised as yet, instead producing the kind of excuse commonly seen in playgrounds when someone doesn't want to play anymore: "I'm going to take my ball home."

Andrew Spooner
November 16, 2012 at 02:04

David Chasm
I was going to read your longer comment but you lost me completely with your rather misjudged and tasteless attempt to equate my input to the Khmer Rouge. 

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