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Two former rubber protestor’s houses were the target of a series of gun and grenade attacks in the Bang Saphan district yesterday. Miraculously nobody was hurt in the attacks that took place at around 2-30am. Several shots were fired into the home of Chaowalit Ladkaeo, who announced on Thursday that he would step down as the leader of the rubber protest in the province.
Police at the scene found multiple bullet holes in his front gate and other parts of the house as well as threatening messages that had been spray painted in red on several of his doors. Bomb disposal experts were then called to the scene after a foam box sealed with brown tae was found on a marble desk at the front of the house, however it turned out to be a hoax device.
The home of Sayamol Kaeonuan, the older sister of Thiraphong Kaeonuan, was also attacked, she is also a former leader of the same rubber protest according to police. Her home was peppered with rounds, and a grenade was also fired out that house that damaged her truck that was parked nearby.
Police said that another shooting took place at a garage owned by a man who has only been identified as Chai, a number of bullet casings were found scattered on the road about thirty meters from the garage.
A group of gunmen also opened fire on the home of Somchai Boonyasit, in Moo 5 of tambon Thong Mongkon.
All four of the attacks took place on the Phetkasem Road, road spikes have been laid and the trees have been felled in several sections of the road.
A police checkpoint on the road was seized yesterday by around one hundred protestors who forced the officers to abandon the post and their police pickup truck and fee the area. Authorities have been unable to reclaim the checkpoint at time of going to press.
Rubber farmers in the south want to get the message across that they are not all rich and they and their families are at the mercy of crop prices.
They say like all crops the price of rubber fluctuates, at its peak un-smoked rubber sheet would fetch as much as one hundred and eighty baht a kilo. At that time life could not be better for rubber growers but their good fortune did not last, and today the price of rubber is less than half of that a few years ago and more and more rubber farmers are being forced into debt.
In recent months the rubber tappers have been staging protests in an attempt to force the government into helping them to stem the drop in prices. However the protests have gained little public sympathy after roads were closed off as well as the rail links to the south as part of the protest. The farmers have been accused of being rich farmland owners who were not at all frugal when times were good and their wallets were full. The farmers insist that these comments are unfair. There are farmers who own rubber farmland and there are those who are hired to tap the rubber, when the prices fall, both groups suffer. The current price of 70 baht per kilo is not enough to make ends meet say the farmers, who are demanding that the price of rubber is shored up by the government.