Rice Farmer suicide in Thailand

Last week, we read “Stuffed and Starved”. In that book, Pastel mentions the Korean farmer, named Lee Kyung Hae, who committed suicide because of his debt. Korean government lift restrictions on the import of Australian beef for free trade, even they knew that the price for cattle would fall with the entry of those cheap beef. In the Lee’s case, he made loans to increase the size of his herbs. However, the price of beef stayed low and flat. In order to pay off the interest on the loan, he sold cattle, land, and finally committed suicide. Free trade allowed the inflow of cheap products from other countries and those products torture the farmers.

I found a news video that informed a rice farmer, Thongma Kaisuan, committed suicide in Thailand. However, this case is a little different from Lee’s case. Thailand is one of the biggest exporter of rice. They don’t import rice from other country. So, why did he commit suicide?

According to the video, he committed suicide because of signify financial hardship, caused by the lack of payment for rice subsidy from the Thailand’s government. “The rice subsidy introduced in 2011 sought to buy rice from local farmers at around 50% above market prices, stockpile them to drive up global prices, and then sell them for increased revenue. Thailand was the world’s largest exporter of rice at the time and had the clout to affect prices of the staple. The program was earlier promoted by Yingluck’s brother Thaksin, who was the former prime minister (S. Sim, 2015). ” This program was one of the main campaign message of  Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. It supposed to provide stable and higher income for the local farmer.

THAI_RicePrice“The timing of the government’s rice program could scarcely have been worse.” Wall Street Journal argues that, “Just as Thailand began withholding rice from the international market, India resumed exports after a long absence. Major importers such as the Philippines, stung by the 2008 price spike, also began producing more rice. Instead of rising, global prices for rice fell from a peak of more than $1,000 a ton in 2008 to the current level of around $390 a ton for the most commonly traded grades.” Because the rice price in the global market has declined, rice subsidy program costed the government some 518 billion Thai baht ($15.7 billion) in losses (W.Chomchuen, 2014 ). Thus, the government run short of cash and finally became not to be able to pay rice subsidy for local farmers.

In the Lee’s case, Free trade allowed the inflow of cheap products from other countries and those products torture the farmers. In Kaisuan’s case, because India started to export their rice, rice price in the global markets decline. And, it tortured farmers. Thus, both cases are seemingly rooted in globalization. However, I think it’s more local government fault. In Lee’s case, Korean government encouraged farmers to make ends meet by upping the size of their herds, instead of imposing a high tariff on the Australian beef, even they knew the price for cattle would fall with the entry of the cheap Australian beef. In Kaisuan’s case, the government lacked to predict world market price and payment for the local farmer. Therefore, government has important role in the global market.



*Sim, S. (2015, January 23). Thailand Rice Subsidy Scheme: What It Is And How It Toppled Thai Leader Yingluck Shinawatra. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.ibtimes.com/thailand-rice-subsidy-scheme-what-it-how-it-toppled-thai-leader-yingluck-shinawatra-1792788

*Hookway, J. (2014, February 5). Thai Effort to Control Rice Market Backfires. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304428004579352590377530118

* Andersen, T. (2014, February 08). Thailand farmer suicides. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhNK2Mcm38Y

* Chomchuen, W. (2014, November 13). Thai Rice-Subsidy Loss Set at $15.7 Billion. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/thai-rice-subsidy-loss-set-at-15-7-billion-1415882258



One thought on “Rice Farmer suicide in Thailand”

  1. Hi, I really liked this post- the situation in Thailand with rice prices reminds me a lot of the farmers in Haiti from the movie Poto Mitan we watched in class. Do you think that farmer suicides in Southeast Asia have raised more public awareness of the effects of crop subsidies than mass protests or demonstrations?

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