23 May 2024

The scandal ridden ‘rice pledging’ scheme is trending on social media again in Thailand, following Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai’s much criticised eating of decade-old rice, from the Yingluck government era about ten years ago, and his claim that it is still “good for consumption”.

Former election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn joined netizens today with his criticism on Facebook, saying that “selling decade old rice could discourage people from eating ‘Kao Kaeng’ or rice with curry”, which is a staple dish for many Thais.

He was also referencing the dish that Phumtham was sampling during his inspection trip yesterday.

According to Somchai, keeping 150,000 sacks of rice in a warehouse for 10 years would require fumigation every two months, which means the rice would have been through about 50 to 60 fumigation cycles.

He also raised doubts over the nutritional value of the rice and chemical contamination, especially the risk of aflatoxin, a toxin produced by certain fungi.

During the trip, Phumtham did mention that the rice he tasted was washed 15 times before cooking, but confirmed that it was edible.

Somchai said, however, that the Ministry of Commerce might face a consumer confidence problem if this lot of decade old rice was to be sold.

To help address public concerns, Somchai offered the following recommendations:

  1. Ask a trusted research lab to test the rice, especially for chemical and aflatoxin contamination.
  2. Use this lot of decade old rice to make lunch for cabinet ministers for one full month.
  3. To further boost confidence, the rice should also be put on the menu for members of parliament for at least a month
  4. For the minister of commerce to be confident in selling the rice, civil servants and political staff should also eat it for one month.