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Thai Military Pays Rice to Farmers during Coup

As the military coup continues in Thailand, Thai military leaders delivered rice payments promised to farmers. The rice was given to the government in return of payments through a rice-pledging scheme created by Yingluck Shinawatra, the Prime Minister of Thailand, as a populist measure.

The previous government blamed the protests and the limited mandate of the government, after the parliament was dissolved last year, for the failure to pay farmers the promised sums. However, the program has been criticized for its waste and corruption, especially by the Bangkok establishment. Intended to help rural areas, the payouts are double the market price found on world markets.

Regardless, the military has made it one of their first priorities.

The Thai military ordered that 92 billion baht, or $2.8 billion, be paid out, while the country’s banks must lend the government the necessary cash.

In the national newspaper, Ban Maung, headlines read: “Farmers Receive Money With Tears of Joy,” in line with the compliant role the Thai media has taken with the military.

Despite many reports of praise from farmers over the payout, in the northeast section of  Thailand, where support for the previous regime remains high, the policy is unlikely to gain much support, according to David Streckfuss, an expert in Thai politics of the northeast region.

In Chiang Yuen, a part of Northeastern Thailand, farmers hope for a return to normalcy, in which they expect the ousted Pheu Thai party and its populist policies to return to power.

For the Bangkok middle-class, the loss of their hegemony over Thai politics left many in dissatisfaction. Particularly, many felt that the system of democracy that was in place consigned them into the structural minority. Now the middle-class views democracy as an inefficient and wasteful use of their taxes, especially as many government policies only benefit the ‘greedy poor.’

In contrast, many people from the northern provinces feel the benefits and are in favor of the previous government.

As the coup continues, the outbreak of class warfare is likely. Although the middle-class is pushing for the return to a constitutional minority rule, such a result is unlikely.

The potential for a descent into civil war in which the Northern provinces would oppose the Bangkok establishment is possible. If such a result were to happen, the effects would be devastating, displacing many into poverty and ruining the promise of the nation and its progress.

— William Ying

Sources: BBC, Borgen, Channel News Asia, New York Times, The Nation
Photo: Channel News Asia 2