Protesters in Thailand have once again taken to the streets of the capital, Bangkok, in the latest show of public anger against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Rice farmers, accompanied by trucks and combine harvesters, gathered outside the Commerce Ministry on Thursday in protest against the lack of payment by the government under a subsidy scheme, which had guaranteed farmers above-market rates for rice. “I want the government to help because I have no money to use now. We have suffered a lot … If they cannot solve the problem, then let other people do the job,” said farmer Sunan Poompuang. According to police, protesters also blocked two highways leading into Bangkok. The controversial scheme helped Yingluck to power, but the government has been unable to sell the rice to fund the scheme and some farmers have been waiting months to be paid. Yingluck’s administration blames three months of street protests in Bangkok for disrupting the scheme, as she says her government’s powers have been restricted after the dissolution of parliament in December 2013. However, her opponents, who have besieged a number of state buildings to prevent civil servants from going to work, say the difficulties began before the government took a caretaker role. A controversial vote, which was held on February 2, failed to end the crisis with anti-government demonstrators disrupting the election in parts of the country, in an attempt to stop Yingluck's Puea Thai party coming back to power. The demonstrations in Thailand were triggered on October 31, when the government proposed an amnesty bill that could have pardoned the prime minister’s brother and former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra, setting the scene for his return to the country. The ex-premier, who was ousted in 2006, has been in self-exile since 2008 to avoid a two-year prison sentence over corruption.