Thailand ’s Election Commission (EC) has approved a request by the caretaker government to use 712 million THB (almost 22 million USD) from the central budget to pay farmers under the state rice-pledging programme.

The Bangkok Post newspaper quoted Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, an EC member, as saying that the decision was made at the recent body’s meeting on February 25. With this decision, 3,971 farmers in Chachoengsao, Phetchabun, Prachin Buri, Uthai Thani and Ayutthaya provinces will receive payment for the rice they sold to the government.

Earlier the same day, the caretaker cabinet approved 20 billion THB (around 614 million USD) from the same source to pay the debts owed to farmers, which also needs EC approval.

The rice subsidy scheme, introduced by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra after she took office in 2011, buys rice from farmers at a higher than market price. The caretaker government, however, is facing a 130 billion THB (4 billion USD) debt owed to around a million farmers.

The Thai National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has filed charges against PM Yingluck accusing her of neglect of duty over the rice scheme.

The body also summoned the Prime Minister to a hearing on the charges on February 27.-VNA