The Thai military has summoned the leaders of southern rubber farmers calling for the government to subsidize rubber prices for attitude adjustment while the junta leader said that no subsidy will be provided.
According to Komchadluek News, military officers at 10 am on Monday, 11 January 2015, summoned 50 key leaders of the southern rubber farmers for an attitude adjustment session at Vibhavadi Rangsit Military Camp in the southern province of Surat Thani.
The rubber farmer leaders were summoned ahead of their planned regional gatherings to demand that the military government subsidize the price of rubber at 60 baht per kilogramme (about 1.65 USD), about 26 baht above the current market price of rubber sheets at Songkhla Market.
During the session led by Col Somkiat Ratanacharoenphonchai, the officer urged the rubber farmers not to go on strike to pressure the government, saying that the authorities are currently doing their best to solve the problem.
The military also invited an expert on rubber to the discussion to explain the global and regional rubber market situation to the rubber farmer leaders.
The expert advised the rubber farmers to diversify by growing additional crops in their rubber plantations.
On the same day, Thai News Agency reported that Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, said that the government will not be able to provide a subsidy for rubber at 60 baht per kilogramme, but will buy rubber at a price slightly higher than the market price.
“Where are we going to find money to lift [the price], answer! If you want me to lift [the price] like this then go find me the money,” said the junta leader.
Earlier, Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the anti-election People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), suggested that the government should concede to the rubber farmers’ demand and subsidize rubber at 60 baht per kilogramme. However, he said that the farmers should have patience and should not go on strike.
Farmers in many regions of Thailand, especially in the South, a region known traditionally for rubber, and other ASEAN countries increased rubber production prompted by a short-lived rubber boom in 2011 when the price of rubber was above 100 baht per kilogramme.
Due to oversupply and the cooling down of China’s economic growth, the demand for natural rubber has dwindled globally.