Thailand's military government announced subsidies worth $1.3 billion Tuesday to appease disgruntled farmers who have threatened protests as commodity prices and exports hit record lows, according to reports.
The junta, which in 2014 vowed to abolish populist policies used by Thailand's deposed leader Yingluck Shinawatra, said it would release about $365 million to aid rubber plantations and about $1 billion to rice farmers. The move is being seen as a complete reversal of policy by the military government, which had pledged to wean farmers off expensive subsidies in the coup, after the previous government’s handout programs became associated with rampant corruption and charges of vote-buying.
"Though the junta's action is exactly the same as previous governments, they claim that this time money will not leak," Gothom Arya, an advisor to the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Bangkok's Mahidol University, told Reuters.
The military government's economic policies have stirred widespread dissent in rural areas, as incomes have collapsed and politically powerful farmers have threatened to rally in defiance of a ban on political gatherings.
While the aid is part of a raft of measures introduced by the 17-month old government, including soft loans to boost the rural economy, farmers remain critical of the government as it has not yet guaranteed minimum crop prices.
"Rubber prices drop. We make less money. I would rather see the government help raise rubber prices," rubber farmer Samai Sriban told Reuters.