Airports of Thailand reportedly turns down government request to help buy bonds to fund rice-pledging scheme

, February 21, 2014 () – The government's effort to pay farmers under the rice-pledging scheme was dealt another blow after the Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) turned down its request to help buy bonds to finance the scheme, the Bangkok Post reports.

AoT Chairman Sita Divari conceded on February 20 the airport authority had received a request from the government to help buy government bonds but had decided to reject the request.

Sqn Ldr Sita came out to confirm the government's request after widespread speculation the Yingluck Shinawatra caretaker administration was turning to AoT for help in its effort to find money to pay the farmers.

News reports about the government's move upset AoT staff. Speaking before about 500 black-clad AoT staff who rallied in front of AoT's headquarters in Don Muang district on February 20, Sqn Ldr Sita said the reports about the government's approach were true.

He said caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong had asked him to help buy the government's bonds.

Sqn Ldr Sita, however said, he had to reject the offer because the promised return of the bond was only 2.6% which was lower than the average rate of bank deposit rates of 3% to 4%.

The AoT's regulations state the AoT only invests in assets that offer maximum returns with the lowest risk, he said.

AoT is a state enterprise and it should respond to the government's requests. But if the government's policies are against those of the AoT, I will have to say no, he said.

The staff staged a protest over rumours the AoT planned to spend 37 billion baht buying the government's bonds to allow the government to take the AoT's money to pay the rice farmers for their pledged rice.

The staff called on Sqn Ldr Sita to swear he would not later use the AoT's money to buy the government's bonds.

He said he would allow staff to sit on the AoT's board when it comes to making decisions on investments. The decision takes immediate effect.

Sqn Ldr Sita, however, refused to promise the protesting staff the AoT would also not invest with the Government Savings Bank and Krungthai Bank.

He said if these state-owned banks offer a good deal in terms of investment opportunities, the AoT could not just turn down their offers.

He could promise that no one would be able to spend AoT money without staff input.

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