Rice farmers dig in over foreigners' land

Bangkok Post | 25.05.2008

Sunthorn Pongpao & Thai News Agency

The Thai Farmers Association called on concerned agencies yesterday to look into land occupation by foreign businessmen, which has made many of the country's rice farmers landless. ''Vast areas of farmland in the western and northeastern provinces have fallen into the hands of Taiwanese businessmen, while investors from the United States have also bought a number of plots in the fruit-growing province of Phetchabun,'' said association member Wichian Phuanglamchiak.

''Widespread land acquisitions by these foreign landlords has already made a good number of rice farmers landless, forcing them to rent the same land for rice growing from foreigners,'' he said.

His call came in the wake of an alleged plan to support Saudi Arabian businessmen keen on putting their money in rice farming and setting up a joint rice export venture.

The plan has drawn fierce protests from paddy farmers, who fear they will soon end up being landless farmers if foreigners are not stopped from buying more rice growing areas.

The association said yesterday it would write to Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, asking him to scrap the plan.

The plan is reportedly the brainchild of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who took a group of Saudi businessmen on a tour of a rice production centre in the Buffalo Village of Chart Thai party secretary-general Prapat Pothasuthon in Suphan Buri on Wednesday.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Somsak Prissananantakul, from the Chart Thai party, also opposes the plan, saying the idea was ''tantamount to selling the nation''.

But Mr Somsak yesterday denied the remark had anything to do with Mr Thaksin.
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