Rice wars simmer after Thai protest leader’s assassination

ricefarmersRegime gunmen assassinated celebrated Thai protest leader Sutin Taratin Sunday, during a brazen broad-daylight drive by shooting amid a melee between protesters and armed “red shirt” regime enforcers. Protests were held across the country at polling stations in opposition to advance voting.

Forty-five out of fifty polling stations were closed in Bangkok alone.

The assassination of Sutin Taratin came after the regime and its supporters made explicit threats of armed violence against any who opposed upcoming elections.

TIME magazine on January 16 reported in their article, “Bangkok Shutdown: Yingluck Supporters Prepare to Fight for Democracy,” that: “As Thailand’s anti-government protests enter their fourth day, observers say prospects for violent confrontation are increasing, with reports of government supporters stockpiling weapons in case of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s ouster.

“According to the Bangkok Post, radical members of the Red Shirts — diehard champions of Yingluck and her notorious brother Thaksin Shinawatra — are readying a cache of arms in case the 46-year-old premier is forced from office by either military or judicial intervention.”

The paper quoted a Red Shirt source as saying “There are strong anti-coup and anti-court sentiments among the red-shirt mavericks who are familiar and experienced with weapon use.”

The very next day, the attacks began. The first was a grenade attack on peaceful marches lead by protest leader Suthep Thuangsuban, which killed one and injured 39. Suthep Thuangsuban was only 30 meters away from the blast, indicating it was a likely assassination attempt.

Protesters would then storm the abandoned building where the attack originated to uncover what appeared to be a weapons cache and a safehouse, just as TIME described.

Another twin grenade attack took place at Bangkok’s Victory Monument, along with nightly drive-by shootings up until the regime announced a “state of emergency” citing their own terror campaign as justification.

After a conversation with Chareon Laothamatas, president of Thai Rice Exporters Association, reporter Michael Yon notes:

“Many people realize by now that the rice scheme in Thailand, under Yingluck, is ravaging rice farmers and seriously damaging the economy. I had a long talk with Chareon this morning in his office. What he explained was even worse than what appears in the papers. In retrospect I should have requested to set up a video camera; what he said should be more widely heard. The devastation to that sector is long-term and could take years to regain Thai dominance in rice exports.

An important aspect of the devastation is that the quality of rice also has been damaged, reducing its value. For instance, for various reasons related and unrelated to the scheme, fragrant rice has been losing its fragrance.

Meanwhile, Chareon explained that India and Vietnam have taken the lead, but that India has its own rice scheme that could similarly wreck their progress, while Vietnam is the smartest with its plan.

And so now with millions of tons of rice still sitting in Thai warehouses, the first crop of 2014 is now starting to come in. Chareon’s suggestion was not to worry about the rice in the warehouses at this moment, but to move the new crop out the door and then get back to the stored rice, which he suggested should be used in the domestic market.

I asked if the rice farmers will fight the government if they are not paid. He said they will not fight so much right now because they are in their fields working to bring the first harvest in, which will be over in February. He said that if the farmers decide to do something serious, the post-harvest window of March-April is the most likely window.

I call these “farmers wars” – not that this is a war in Thailand. Farmers wars typically revolve around the crop cycles and seasons. Thailand — the world’s number one rice exporter — produces one-third of the world’s supply.

Source: ATN/Michael Yon