Thailand's Election Commission on Tuesday approved an earlier request by the caretaker government to use 712 million baht (21.9 million U.S. dollars) from the Central Fund to pay farmers owed under the rice-pledging scheme. The approved payment will go to 3,971 farmers in provinces of Chachoengsao, Phetchabun, Prachin Buri, Uthai Thani and Ayutthaya, the Bangkok Post reported, quoting commission member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn. The approval was made at a meeting of the commission earlier in the day, according to Somchai. The Thai government started buying rice from farmers at above- market prices in 2011 to shore up rural incomes, fulfilling a campaign pledge by the Pheu Thai Party, which won a parliamentary majority that year. Currently, the caretaker government owes about 130 billion baht (4 billion U.S. dollars) to around 1 million farmers nationwide. A cabinet meeting on Tuesday approved 20 billion baht from the Central Fund to be used to make long-overdue payments to farmers, as requested by the National Rice Policy Committee, caretaker Deputy Commerce Minister Yanyong Puangraj was quoted as saying. But the government still needs to seek endorsement from the Election Commission, Yanyong added. Should the government seek the commission's approval for payments again, its request would be considered on a case-by-case basis, Somchai was quoted as saying.