Thai leaders yesterday bowed to mounting pressure from farmers in a successful last-ditch bid to stall mass protests across Bangkok. Pledges of a temporary stoppage of debt repayments and a review of rural policies appeared enough to stem threats from northeastern groups to mobilise up to 50,000 farmers around Parliament in what would have been the biggest demonstration yet against the rule of Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai. Only about 1,500 eventually turned up to hear brief speeches before the mob petered out to about 50 hard-core protesters by lunchtime. 'I've come because I'm not sure I believe the Government,' said a 49-year-old pig farmer from the central plains. 'This Government knows nothing about the poor.' The deal struck between the increasingly influential Thai Farmers Foundation and the agricultural authorities has intensified speculation that the Government will call an election soon to capitalise on its popularity. It involves 1.4 billion baht (HK$262.5 million) borrowed from state banks by more than 30,000 households and effectively postpones repayments for a year. 'It's an acknowledgement of the pressures in the countryside now that the recession is hitting,' one Democrat Party member said. 'It's only going to get worse before it gets better . . . that is a very hard thing to explain to the people over and over again but this should at least help.' Mr Chuan has faced mounting criticism that his tight financial policies are hurting the poor by squeezing the economy and sparking unemployment. Farmers and top businessmen want interest rates dropped to boost cash-flow and promote jobs and the general business climate. Mr Chuan has repeatedly insisted the International Monetary Fund's medicine must be swallowed and short-term inflation and unemployment will worsen. Yesterday, he told Parliament the economy would start to recover by next year and would be well into full growth by the year 2000 - estimates now at odds with the more gloomy private sector.