THAI GOVERNMENT CONTINUALLY SUBMIT TO THE WILL OF PROTESTERS – Every person or group has under a democracy the right to peaceful process and demonstration.
In Thailand however this method of getting the Government to take notice of a particular plight appears to take on a sinister overtone in that the method is simply about forcing change; without any considerations to the overall health of the economy.
During Yingluck Shinawatra’s election campaign for the Prime Ministers seat she took to traveling around the poorer regions of Thailand. In the process she pledged to reduce poverty among the farmers by introducing subsidies that would increase their income.
The most notable aspect of her campaign was that of targeting rice farmers where she promised to heavily subsidies their crops; the idea was to help increase income to afford a better standard of living.
It all seemed like a reasonable idea and yet nobody, much less those in power, ever considered the economical impact of attempting to manipulate the rice market; which in effect they would be attempting.
The consensus appeared to be that because Thailand was the largest exporter of rice the world would bow down to the price increase. Unfortunately the reality was, and remains, that other rice producing nations, such as India, took this opportunity to produce more, sustaining market prices and taking over Thailand’s rice export market.
Thailand’s plan to manipulate or force the rice market to accept a higher price failed to work and as a result Thailand has gone from the world’s largest exporter of rice to the worlds forth exporter.
The result of the ‘rice pledging’ scheme where the Thai Government pays above market prices in order to subsidise rice farmers has resulted in vast mountains of rice that are simply stored in huge warehouses where it is basically left to rot.
The rice pledging scheme has been highly controversial and many have seen this as little more than a vote buying exercise by the Thai Government.
Over the last 12 months the Thai Government has attempted to on several occasion to paint a very rosy picture with press releases of Government to Government contracts; one notably with China in which the Chinese Government, after they got wind of it, ferociously denied.
Just a few months ago the Thai Government attempted to silence the press by stating that it would file charges against any person or media outlet that produced articles that admonished the rice pledging scheme – or rather reported on elements that suggested Thai rice was in fact substandard or spoilt.
Of course this didn’t have much of an effect on the number of articles pertaining to the mountains of rice that were rotting in their warehouses – if anything news became far more prevalent and widespread.
Moving away from the debacle of the rice pledging scheme, which the Thai Government recently announced would continue to run, the Thai Government has now been asked by rubber farmers to subsidize their production; due to falling internal and international market prices.
Initially the Thai Government declined but what appears to have become common practice, the rubber farmers decided to protest.
Protests in Thailand most often consist of some form of disruption; this manifests itself by the way of road closures, blockades and in some cases closing down entire airports.
Recently the rubber farmers took to blockading a number of roads in a number of provinces and districts in order to force the Government to provide subsidies for the production of rubber.
At first the Government stood firm; telling the rubber farmers that it was not economically viable to provide such a subsidy.
The difficulty the Thai Government has is that it cannot get the message across effectively to the poor, in terms of how the economy works.
This again goes right back to the Thai Government failing to provide basic education and with the ever growing perceived ‘me, me me’ Thai attitude it becomes apparent that the ‘greater good of the economy’ is of no concern to the Thais who want the Government to provide assistance.
One of Thailand’s most important areas of income is that of tourism. According to the Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak the rubber farmers’ protests has caused the following tourism revenue losses so far;
- Prachuap Khiri Khan lost Bt22 million;
- Chumphon Bt95 million;
- Nakhon Si Thammarat Bt158 million;
- Surat Thani Bt141 million; and
- Phattalung Bt22 million.
Whilst the Thai Government initially took a firm stance that it would not provide a subsidy, even resorting to sending in riot police with tear gas to break up demonstrations, it soon caved into demands and came up with a subsidy package.
The rubber farmers appear content in some quarters whilst others are saying that the subsidy will only benefit landowner. There are fears that this will lead to yet more protests; causing yet more disruption and damage to the tourism industry.
It now appears to be a firm idea that if you want Thai Government support then all that needs to be done is to protest; but such protests must cause as much disruption as possible and for as long as it takes in order for the Thai Government to cave in.
So what’s next? Yesterday Phitsanulok Democrat MP Nakorn Machim told the press that 48,000 households of corn farmers were affected by the dropping price of corn. In response to this, corn farmers, have now called upon the Government to subsidize corn crops.
Corn farmers have now said that they will give the Government three days in which to come up with a subsidy plan or they too will take to the streets in the same manner as the rubber farmers.
It is likely that the corn farmers will get their way which will then expose the Thai Government to greater losses and economical strain.
Meebal.com spoke to one insider for their opinion;
“You have to consider two key elements here. Firstly farmers are poor, often living hand-to-mouth on a daily basis. Secondly they are uneducated and therefore have no understanding of how an economy works; much less how world markets determine prices for goods.
In the past Thai farmers were largely ignored however this is changing but this change is not through educated reasoning it’s by force and the Thai Government knows that if they wish to remain in power then the key votes, which lay in the vast farming communities of the North East, must be kept happy at all costs.
I strongly suspect that other farmers, such as tobacco farmers, will quickly stand in line after the corn farmers in order to force the Government into some form of subsidy.”
The question is can Thailand continue to provide such subsidizes and on such a large scale. Already the Thai Government is heavily in the hole financially over the rice pledging scheme; which there appears to be no plan to get out of.
With more farmers demanding subsidizes, and causing disruption through protests until their demands are met, the question is: How long can the Thai Government sustain the growing demands of subsidizing farmers before it breaks the bank?
It is obvious that the Thai Government is not going to be able to manipulate any particular market; the rice scheme laid rest to that plan.
The truth is that no markets are going to bow to the pressures of what is little more than price fixing just to support the Thai farmers.