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Farmers want help against 'cheating' millers

Some 139 farmers in Mae Lao in Chiang Rai will seek help from the National Council for Peace and Order to speed up court procedures after rice millers allegedly cheated them of Bt5 million for rice sold under the previous government's pledging scheme.

Banchong Chaisombat, kamnan of tambon Jommok Kaew, said farmers joined the scheme in 2013 with Nitipol Sahakarnkaset for Bt9 billion in total but the company failed to give them receipts despite being asked to do so many times.

Natsan Rasthanahiran and his wife Thananrat Rasthanahiran, the owners of Nitipol Sahakarnkaset, were arrested on July 18 and charged with fraud in connection with rice pledged by farmers in Tern and Khun Tan districts in Chiang Rai.

After hearing the couple had been arrested, the Mae Lao farmers, who hail from four tambons, also filed a police complaint. Ricer miller Thamolpan Kamrangsi, the owner of Rung Ruang, was also arrested in connection to the case and released on bail. Two other rice millers involved in the case paid farmers Bt4 million and still owe them Bt5 million.

The farmers unsuccessfully sought help from the Chiang Rai governor and the Department of Special Investigation. They will file a petition with the NCPO through a military agency in Chiang Rai in an effort to speed up the trial as they are struggling financially.

Sawai Chairat, a farmer leader, said problems had been compounded by the recent earthquake.

Sukham Suwan, a farmer from tambon Jom Mok Kaew, said people only wanted money owed to them and didn't want to press civil or criminal charges.

Nuan La-nga, a farmer from the same tambon, said a big burden fell on her shoulders after her husband had a stroke and became paralysed due to the stress of being cheated.

Kittisak Rattanawaraha, chairman of the Network of Farmers from 17 northern provinces, said some 300 farmers in Phichit were cheated out of Bt50 million in total under the rice-pledging scheme and courts were hearing those cases.

He expected farmers in the north would be paid for the rice they pledged this month. He had not received reports that loan sharks had intimidated farmers in the north to pay debts owed to them following the NCPO's order to swiftly pay money long owed to them.


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