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Tuesday September 17, 2013 MYT 2:55:01 PM
Tuesday September 17, 2013 MYT 2:56:05 PM
Rubber farmers rest at a road block where they spent the night during a protest in Surat Thani, early September 4, 2013. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Protesters blocked a highway in southern Thailand for a second day on Tuesday in a bid to force the government to increase a subsidy for rubber farmers, even though a curfew was imposed in the area after clashes with riot police on Monday.
"We have put in place a 24-hour curfew to maintain order. Our biggest concern now is the safety of protesters and police," said Wirot Chiwarangsan, governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat province, where the protest is taking place.
Despite the order, about 200 protesters gathered at a major intersection on the highway early on Tuesday, disrupting traffic.
Varathep Rattanakorn, a minister at the prime minister's office, told reporters after a ministerial meeting on the matter that the government would not renegotiate a rubber subsidy offered to farmers last week.
Most farmers' groups have agreed in principle to the government's offer of a 21.2 billion baht (417 million pounds) subsidy, which works out at about 10 baht per kg.
On top of the current market price of about 80 baht, that would give farmers 90 baht ($2.82) for each kg of rubber they produce. But some are demanding 120 baht per kg.
About 3,000 protesters had gathered at the protest site on Monday, police said. Some were armed with sling shots and clashed with riot police firing teargas.
"The situation was very volatile so we had to retreat. Cars were set on fire, some acidic liquid was thrown and stones were hurled," Kittisan Dejsoonthornwat, a deputy provincial police commander, told Reuters on Tuesday.
At least 118 police were injured in the clash, he said.
Kittisan said some of the protesters were teenagers who had no connection to the farmers and were simply out to cause trouble.
(Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Alan Raybould and Robert Birsel)
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