Dec 4, 2012

Thailand - Democrats call for probe on Thailand rice subsidy scheme

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The Democrat Party yesterday requested the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the Thai government's rice-pledging and village-fund schemes.

We have received complaints of alleged irregularities in the Small, Medium and Large (SML) Loan project from villagers," party-list MP Ong-arj Klampaibul said yesterday.

He and the Phitsanulok MP Warong Dechgitvigrom submitted the party's petition to the NACC.

The SML project allocates about 300,000-500,000 baht (US$9,700 to $16,300)  to each of 70,000 villages nationwide for promoting local businesses and start-ups.

Ong-arj said villagers claimed that local politicians and local red-shirt leaders conspired to sell goods from affiliated businesses at 100-per-cent inflated prices and shared the gains among themselves.

Warong said he had investigated the rice-mortgaging scheme and handed over evidence to the NACC showing that there were abuses.

The government had claimed that rice in its stocks had been sold to three foreign countries under government-to-government contracts, but the government actually sold the rice to a firm close to it, Siam Indica, at below the pledging price, he said.

The rice was later resold to rice mills to sell back to farmers to pawn again with the government under the pledging scheme, he said.

The government rice was released to GSSG Co and certain individuals, but Siam Indica was the one that paid for letters of credit to be opened to buy the rice from the government, he said.

The Democrats asked the NACC to probe the prime minister, commerce minister, senior government officials and some private firms, he added.

PM's Office Minister Warathep Ratanakorn said the alleged siphoning off of SML funds happened a long time ago in Maha Sarakham's Na Dun district and the government was investigating the case.

The government stopped providing funds to the villages under suspicion in August, he said.

Pimnara Pradubwit and Atthapoom Ongkulana

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