National assembly to debate controversial rice bill despite protests
Despite protests by some farmer groups and the Democrat party, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is determined to go ahead with its planned deliberation of the controversial rice bill in its second and final readings on Wednesday.
Objections to the bill focus on Section 27/1 which empowers the Rice Department as the sole authority for checking and approving rice seeds for cultivation to ensure the seeds meet set standards.
Critics claim the bill, when enacted, will deprive rice farmers of the right to trade or exchange rice seeds among themselves because the seeds will have to be certified by the Rice Department. They also suspect that the bill is designed to benefit the agro industry in a way that will force farmers to rely on their seeds for cultivation.
On Saturday, the NLA’s committee scrutinizing the rice bill invited representatives from 70 farmer groups to parliament to be briefed on the content of the bill and to refute the allegations against it.
The farmers’ representatives were told that it was untrue that farmers would face heavy fines if they are caught in possession of rice seeds for cultivation. Instead, they were assured that they could keep their own rice seeds and were free to exchange their seeds with other farmers unless they were kept for commercial purpose, in which case their seeds must be certified by the Rice Department.
Mr. Supachai Srila, a Democrat party member, has suggested that the NLA put the rice bill on hold and let the post-election House of Representatives deliberate it instead.