“rice money” & BJT party
I am trying to follow the development in the “rice money“ saga in Thailand as well as in general the farmers plight. because rice is the main food in this country and may be even whole Asia, and it is one of the major Thai export commodities (in fact Thailand is still considered world’s largest exporter) and therefore naturally the biggest money making source.
naturally being a biggest “cookie jar“, it is very closely related to the economical, social and political situation in Thailand. as saying goes – “follow the money” ! 😉
so, naturally one of the easiest way to figure out the politics in Thailand is to follow the “rice money“. that’s what I am trying to do by following news related to rice trade and farmers struggle to get their rightful position in this trade system and in the country’s affairs. and I am trying to blog on what I read. although I have to admit that it is not so easy, because there is not much information about it – unless there are some troubles, like faction within government fighting for better “slice of cake” (revenues) or when farmers go on strike, or when some traders / exporters bully government and / or farmers into submission to their whims. therefore I am only able to collect irregular reports of these news and extract some small pieces from them which at least help to get some picture of what’s really going on in Thailand with “rice money“ and accordingly with the farmers’ and labor movement.
so, here are couple of newest articles in local Thai MSM.
the first one is on Nation: “Party woos rice farmers with new policies”
With an ambition to win big in the next general election, the Bhum Jai Thai Party yesterday kicked off two new policies to woo votes from rice farmers with the goal of improving the quality of their life to be on par with rubber and sugar farmers.
During a three-day seminar ending yesterday at Sakhon Nakhon, the party revealed details of two proposals launched as pilot projects. The first is called – one tambon administrative organisation, one rice bank and one rice mill.
Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul, Bhum Jai Thai Party leader said the party wanted to help free farmers from debt by setting up rice banks and mills to empower farmers to dictate rice prices like farmers of other agricultural produce, such as sugar cane and rubber. The Tambon Administrative Organisations, the closest agencies to farmers, would be responsible in setting up the system. “This is the best method for decentralisation and solving farmers’ problems,” he said.
Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai said the project would reduce the problem of rice farmers – that traders push down rice prices. “The Bhum Jai Thai Party is confident we can completely eradicate the problem of falling rice prices,” she said…
“This idea of the project … can help the government reduce budget spending on market intervention that reaches Bt50 billion a year,” Newin said.
another article is by Bkk Post : “Bhumjaithai goes on the road”
right, talks to party heavyweight Newin Chidchob
Unveiling its package of measures at a party “seminar” yesterday, Bhumjaithai executives told villagers in Phana Nikhom district they were ready to fight the next general election. The policies include a rice bank and rice mill for each province, playing fields in each village, ambulances for every health station, and irrigation system for every tambon…
“We have the policies. But I can’t predict when the next general election will take place,” he said.
The Bhumjaithai Party is at odds with its coalition partner, the Democrat Party, over two of its main policies: the bus lease project for Bangkok and management of mortgaged farm products for rural areas.
The mortgage scheme is overseen by Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai, who at yesterday’s launch unveiled a policy to provide each province with a rice bank and a rice mill.
“We will probably have to wait until a new government is elected before we can implement, it,” Mrs Porntiva said.
Northeastern provinces would get the rice banks and rice mills first, as they needed them most and the policy involved a large investment.
A rice bank and rice mill would give smaller farmers more negotiating power and would stop them being cheated by middlemen, she said. The rice bank would include a paddy dehumidifier to allow rice to be stocked longer.
At present, farmers have to sell rice to middlemen at below market value right after harvest because they lack humidifier technology, she said.
Tambon administration organisations would run the scheme, which would free the state from having to mortgage rice products from farmers.
Bhumjaithai would also give a million baht sports playing area to each village, Mr Boonjong said.
Deputy Health Minister Manit Nopamornbodee said the party would also provide an ambulance for every local health station, to improve access to hospitals.
A promise of an irrigation system for each tambon was given by Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Supachai Phosu.
The party unveiled its promises about an hour’s drive from the border of Sawang Daen Din district, in the same province where the by-election will be held on June 21. The Bhumjaithai candidate, Pitak Jantasee, is going up against the Puea Thai Party’s Anurak Boonsorn.
wow ! this is quite a surprise actually, I wonder – why it is being proposed only now, couldn’t BJT or anyone else imagine some solution like this earlier? what they have been doing and waiting for all these years ever since 1932, or at least since 1992 ? why so suddenly now BJT came up tih such ideas ? 😉
are they actually sincere in these proposals ?
the name “one tambon one bank & mill” I guess that will be “OTOBM” (or “OTOMB“, to make it sort of rhymy 🙂 ) ? something like former TRT/ Thaksin’s project “OTOP“.
well, that is at least already some start , I guess – to empower farmers and let them improve their economical position. as well as certainly help the government to save money and also help the whole country to improve its position on international market as a competative rice exporter – because now its former #1 position is greatly challenged by Vietnam and India. allowing farmers to have better prices through the Tambon owned bank and mill may certainly help to avoid being bullied by middlemen and millers, the “blood suckers” who are mostly responsible for prices supression. it is at least can be considered as a first step.
although there are many question remain…
one question is : what will be the level of participation of farmers themselves in this system?
it is said that Tambon Administrative Organisations will be in charge – alright, I guess that is logical, since that is supposed duty of those entities.
but then – where is the guarantee that the same current “blood suckers” (middlemen and millers) will not control those Tambon Administrative Organisations and according the whole “new” system ? I very much suspect a big chance of such possibility, because after all, these guys are those who has money. if so, then it won’t help farmers much to “dictate prices”, because they will still be dependant on SAME “blood suckers“, who would merely change their appearance. then what’s the point in this ?
for system to be effective and progresive, to be able to bring real change, farmers must be given a large role in the managing these new “OTOBMs” – not the same crony capitalists !
ideally of course it should be rather made in the form of local farmers cooperatives, who would together own both mills and banks and ALL the profits shared for the benefit of themselves, members of such cooperatives, for the sake of further development of their farms, villages, cooperatives and whatever other projects as schools, clinics etc.
somehow I am afraid that it is not going to happen- that farmers would not be allowed to own these organizations, but instead the same old “blood suckers” along with Tambon bosses and most likely BJT (or whoever local MPs) ripping the “rice money” and the farmers continue being disadvantaged.
second question : where from Tambon Administrative Organisations will get the funds to finance these new projects and for banks to be able to give loans to farmers and also for mills to operate ? because naturally those who pay – they do control these institutions.
I suspect that it would be either government (or local authorities), or the same old “blood suckers“. that wouldn’t change much.
third question : what about other important aspects as storage, transportation, fertilisers, technical maintainance etc ?
these also has to be managed and preferably farmers either mutually own them, or be able to produce their own, or have some sort of fund which would be used for paying for these – so that they are not continu being robbed by some other greedy and dishonest “blood suckers“.
fourth question : what about the standards imposed by Ministry of Commerce (or whatever other authority) for the rice quality, which currently mostly benefit the old same clique of “blood suckers” – those very middlemen, millers, and rice exporters ?! to be consistence BJT or whatever next government which is sincere to bring change to the country and empower rural folks MUST ensure that the prsent system is changed or adjusted so that to try eventually ELIMINATE all the remaining “blood suckers“, those parasites who themselves do not produce rice, but atcually are the main and REAL enjoyers of the “rice money” !
so, to be consistent and dedicated to CHANGE, whatever next government must seriously consider to do something about present system and “standards”. perhaps merely creating “rice banks and mills” is not enough, even a superficial action – if farmers will still not be able to sell their produce, like rice, DIRECTLY to the end-consumers (as urban dwellers, fellow Thais who need to eat rice daily but can’t grow it themselves and have to buy it – for MUCH HIGHER price than it is in the villages !) or also to the foreign wholesale buyers.
to be sincere in their effort to TRULY help farmers improve their lives and economical situation, as well as automaticall help the whole country both internally and externally, BJT or whichever other party or coalition of parties must think about all these points and not limit their effort to half-measures, but go all the way till the end, to totally change the WHOLE current rotten and patronising (in favor of “blood suckers” ) system !
otherwise these half-mesures – and that’s precisely how I see this whole BJT’s project – will not benefit farmers at all, but only the same “blood suckers” : middlemen brokers, millers, exporters AND unscrupulous politicians and power brokers who are lobbied (aka get money) from all these. in the end farmers will still be in the yok of practical slavery, and other ordinary folks as labors and civil workers in cities pay artificially higher prices for their “daily ruice”, as well as government will contiue losing money to “pledge”, subsides, cover loses (aka benefit “blood suckers“, not famers) AND ultimately country as whole will continue lose competition on the internaltional market to its neighbours !
so, it is in everybody’s interests actually to CHANGE the present system.
the problem of course is – that all the “blood suckers” are too rich and powerful now to simply give up their blood-sucking positions.
therefore I am not sure at all that BJT will be even allowed to implement this idea, even in its infantile half-mesured form as proposed now.
what to speak – maintain it, especially if full measured form is implemented, and yet to remain as government. like previously Thaksin’s 1mln Baht loan for each village has made all the “blood suckers” furios with rage – that he has attempted so to put them out of business. so, where is a guarantee that this time the same “blood suckers” will not do everything possible to prevent such attempts to put them out of business ? I am sure pretty soon will be some reaction to this BJT’s anounced policy !
therefore I fell like this bold campaign by BJT party is more like a gamble than a real solid policy. that is why I think in some sense and to some extent Nation is right in saying that it is more like a new populist “vote-buying scheme” rather than some actual serious effort. nevertheless, it is already a new developement – at least some resemblance of efforts to change the system. at least, even it will fail, it will make people think and awake to reality, and may be eventually try harder to change the present system.
but if to be realistic – I am not sure that it will work at all. most probably even now all the “blood suckers” already hastily make sure that BJT doesn’t win and therefore no any such changes happen. I think there will be some back-clash from their side – like, trying to discredit BJT party.
also I think nowadays farmers are not that stupid anymore and they can see through these half-mesures. so, from their side also there is no any guarantee that they will be so easily fooled by BJT’s populistic policies and vote for them. if they are really smart – they should try to take this opportunity and bargaign for a higher bid – to let some other parties make a BETTER OFFER, more wholesome / complete package ! because taking into consideration that present government coalition with Dem. party in the center are not so shy to employ those very populist policies of their rivals which till very recently they have strongly critisized and even condemned themselves – my guess is that to be able to even contest in the next elections, ALL the other parties will employ more or less same populist tactis. therefore, I think there will be several parties trying to compete to offer a better package – and farmers should carefully and smartly bargain for the BEST offer !
well, that’s my thoughts. I think the fact that this new poject even anounced indicates that I am not alone in contemplating all this stuff. rather there must be many other people, who are naturally more involved and conserned, and therefore are more competent and professional in this matter. so what I mean is – I see this as a good sign, and hope that sooner or later some things will start to change.