Farmers from Chiang Rai, Phrae, Nan and Phayao investing in what seemed like a profitable rice mortgage scheme.

The 50 northern farmers turned to deputy House speaker Wisuth Chainarun for help after being swindled out of 20 million baht in what they said was a bogus business scheme.

They were persuaded by Mr Suriyan, who owns Poottipong Farming United, to seek loans from financial institutions and banks and use the money to set up cooperatives to buy rice from rice farmers.

The company issued them cheques in exchange for the rice.

However, the company never put any money into the group’s bank account and the cheques subsequently bounced.

Sakulrat Laisak, a former village head in Chiang Rai’s Wiang Chai district, said Mr Suriyan promised would double his investment.

Mr Sakulrat took out a loan worth 1 million baht using three vehicles as collateral. Some farmers used their land as collateral.

Mr Sakulrat said farmers in Wiang Chai district have lost about 2.5 million baht.

Aram Yod-oi, a farmer from Phrae, said he and his neighbours lost 500,000 baht to the scam.

Mr Wisuth said he would lodge a petition with the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and ask the agency to investigate it as a special case.

Suspects would have their assets seized to ensure that victims get their money back.

The case justifies DSI intervention as the suspects are accused of operating a similar scheme in north-eastern provinces.

The police have summoned Mr Suriyan for questioning.

He said an arrest warrant will be issued if he fails to show up.