A proposal by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture to give away 30 million latex pillows to support rubber farmers has prompted questions. Especially about its sustainability and most of all transparency.
The idea was floated by Capt Thamanat Prompow last week to help rubber farmers who have long endured low prices.
This prompted Future Forward Party MP Wirote Lakkhana-adisorn to join with netizens in criticizing his idea. Most noteworthy the mobilizing of 18 billion baht to manufacture the latex pillows.
Pillow Scheme Defended
The criticism quickly prompted one of his close aides to mount a defence of the plan on Monday. Pol Col Ruamnakhon Thaptimthong, who heads Capt Thamanat’s working team, said the scheme was in line with the Palang Pracharath Party election campaign pledge. First of all to support rubber farmers and also help shore up crop prices.
Thamanat scheme would put 150,000 tonnes of latex from rubber farmers to use. The latex would also be purchased directly from registered farmers at 65 baht per kg. Furthermore, the price was above the current average market price of 40 baht per kg.
According to Pol Col Ruamnakhon, each pillow is expected to cost 600 baht to produce. When he was asked about criticism that the production cost of 600 baht apiece is too high. He said the market price of latex pillows of the same quality is between 2,000-2,500 baht apiece.
Netizens criticizing the scheme pointed out the average price for latex pills online ranges between 800 baht and 1,000 baht. Even more some latex pillows can be found for as low at 300 baht.
Despite the criticism Pol Col Ruamnakhon said the latex pillow scheme is expected to be submitted to the cabinet for consideration next month. He also noted that a complaint will be lodged against the FFP MP today over his comments about the proposal.
Latex Pillow Scheme Draws Mixed Reactions
Meanwhile, Capt Thamanat latex pillow scheme also drew mixed reactions from the rubber sector.
Pairatch Joeychum, leader of a rubber farmer group questioned the idea, saying there were other ways the government could shore up rubber prices. Above all in a sustainable manner such as by promoting the rubber tire production industry.
“Giving away 30 million latex pillows worth 18 billion isn’t the right answer. The government can do better with that amount of money,” the Bangkok Post reported.
In contrast, Luckchai Kittipol, the chief executive of Thai Hua Rubber Plc, voiced his support for the scheme. Saying it would boost domestic demand and give prices a boost.
He said authorities concerned should step up work to ensure the transparency of the process. He also suggested that the government could expand the scheme by either selling at low prices or giving latex pillows to foreign tourists.
Deputy Minister has a jaded past
Capt Thamanat faced public and political criticism earlier this year over a prison sentence in Australia. He vowed to file around 100 lawsuits against those who he believes have lied about his past.
“They will face consequences for what they did. I’ve said I’ll take it seriously. I’m not joking. I’ve told my lawyer to proceed with these 100 cases,” said the deputy Minister.
Thamanat faced criticism from the disclosure of court documents by an Australian newspaper. They showed he might have somewhat embellished about his conviction.