Farmers call off Bangkok airport protest; vow to return if gov’t doesn’t make rice payments

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BANGKOK – Angry farmers driving hundreds of tractors have called off a threatened protest at Thailand’s main airport after the embattled government agreed to make long-delayed payments on last year’s rice crops by next week.

The farmers vowed Friday to stage the protest next week if the promise is broken. It’s unclear how the debt-ridden government will secure money for the farmers. Nationwide, they’re owed about $3 billion as part of a botched rice subsidy scheme.

The farmers’ protest is one of many headaches for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who appears increasingly powerless against a wider anti-government movement pressing for her resignation.

A protest at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport has deep resonance in Thailand, with anti-government demonstrators shutting down the facility for over a week in 2008, stranding hundreds of thousands of travellers.

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