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Khaosod : US Embassy Spokesman Dispels Claim Of Thai Rice Quarantine

BD_316smallweb_944_1Taken from an article called “US Embassy Spokesman Dispels Claim Of Thai Rice Quarantine” by Khaosod Online on 29th June 2013.

(29 June) Spokesman of the US Embassy in Bangkok insisted that the US food agency is not placing a quarantine alert on rice imports from Thailand as claimed by anti-government critics.

Certain media agencies have reported, without citing verifiable source, that the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) has prevented all shipments of Thai rice grains from entering the US mainland due to supposed fear that rice under the Thai program is heavily contaminated with dangerous chemicals.

The report appears to coincide with the ongoing opposition to Thai government′s rice mortgage scheme, which the critics say are costing taxpayers billions of baht and reducing Thai rice industry′s capability to compete on global market. Supporters of the program contend that it is a much needed subsidy to Thai farmers, albeit a poorly implemented one.

On June 29th, the personal secretary to Mr. Korn Chatikavanit, a prominent member of the Thai opposition party, has published on his Facebook account a screenshot of FDA website that he said is an order by the FDA to quarantine all shipments of Thai rice at every port on the American mainland.

In his Facebook post, Mr. Noch Hautavanija also cited the story previously reported by The Nation and Thai Rath newspapers, which had been vehemently denied by top officials in Thai government.

However, a quick inspection would reveal that the FDA alert notice mentioned by Mr. Noch as evidence is in fact a very broad order instructing FDA agents to detain shipments of food imported from various companies and countries that are suspected of containing dangerous chemicals.

The said order affects wide-ranging products, and it did not mention the Thai rice scheme. Moreover, its most recent order (dated 12 May 2013) appears to focus on shipment of glutinous rice from only one company in Thailand – based in Samut Sakorn province – and not on all shipments of Thai rice, contrary to what the anti-government critics have claimed.

Meanwhile, Mr. Walter Braunohler, spokesman of the US Embassy in Bangkok, told Krungthep Turakit TV news channel that the US authorities have not altered their treatment of Thai rice in general.

Mr. Braunohler explained that the FDA alert was first established in 1998 and has been updated regularly ever since. He said the import alert has nothing to do with Thai rice pledging program.

He also denied reports that the US authorities are opposed to Thai government′s rice scheme, saying that it is the Thai people who have the right to choose which policy works for their country.

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