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Rice farmer Chit Preelukachat, 64, sees some benefits in joining a "Big Farm" project. (Photo by Peter Janssen)
Politics

Thai rice politics boiling ahead of Yingluck trial verdict

Government seeks to cut production as export market returns to normal

PETER JANSSEN, Contributing writer | Thailand

BANGKOK -- Rice is a political commodity in Thailand, where 40% of the work force (about 14.6 million people) is employed in agriculture -- a high percentage for an upper middle-income country. About 60% work in rice production, so grabbing the rice farmers' vote is a good way to win elections.

That message was not lost on the Pheu Thai Party, whose de facto leader Thaksin Shinawatra masterminded a generous subsidy campaign that promised to buy "every grain of rice" from farmers at fixed prices in Thailand's 2011 general election. Pheu Thai won, but the policy cost the country and the Shinawatra family dearly, despite making rice farmers wealthier for two years.

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