Controversial Rice Bill shelved indefinitely

Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has backed away from its attempt to pass the controversial Rice Bill amidst stiff opposition from farmer’s groups who claim that the new law would deprive them of the right to keep their own rice seeds for further cultivation.

Mr. Kittisak Rattanawaraha, a member of the NLA who initiated the Bill, said this morning that he had consulted with his colleagues who agreed to delay the Bill indefinitely.

Nevertheless, he insisted that the Bill was intended to help rice farmers and to protect their interests, adding that he would let the post-election government decide whether the Bill should be revived, adding “We will not raise the Bill for deliberation during the tenure of the National Legislative Assembly because we are concerned that it may provoke confrontation.  We better stop now and heed the voice of the people.”

The Bill sought to grant the government’s Rice Department the sole authority to license rice strains for cultivation to protect the image of Thai rice. The Bill would not have prevented farmers from keeping some of their harvested crops for cultivation, as widely misunderstood.

However, commercial trading of rice seed for cultivation, even by and between farmers, would have required certification of the seed by the Rice Department. Opponents of the Bill suspect that the aim of the Bill to benefit agro industrial corporations.


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