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Thai Police Say 3,200 Farmers Join Rubber-Price Protest in South

Thai police said about 3,200 rubber farmers blocked roads in the southern provinces of Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Trang and Surat Thani to pressure the government to help boost declining prices.

Security may be bolstered around airports in southern Thailand after 2,000 protesters blocked a road near the Surat Thani airport, which is about 630 kilometers (390 miles) south of Bangkok, police spokesman Piya Uthayo told reporters today.

Thailand’s 14 southern provinces account for about 80 percent of the nation’s rubber production. The government yesterday agreed to help subsidize production costs, and rejected a proposal to pay farmers a minimum price for rubber. Thailand is the largest producer and exporter of the commodity.

Protesters blocked roads at seven locations in five provinces today, Deputy Transport Minister Prin Suwannatat told reporters. The ministry will use the international airport in Phuket as a back-up in the event the protests escalate and force the closure of smaller airports in the country’s south.

About 160 passenger trains and 16 cargo services were disrupted by the protests between Aug. 27 and Sept. 3, causing losses of about 32 million baht ($993,000), State Railways of Thailand Governor Prapat Chongsaguan said.

Tapping of rubber trees may decline because of the demonstrations, and shipments could be delayed by about a week, said Luckchai Kittipol, chief executive officer of Thai Hua Pcl, the country’s third-largest rubber exporter.

Thailand produces about 360,000 metric tons of rubber a month during August and September, according to the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries.

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