In Thailand on 24 February 2016, 70 villagers travelled to the Loei Provincial Court house to show their support for the 6 community-based human rights defenders from Khon Rak Ban Kerd (KRBK) involved in a civil lawsuit at the Loei Provincial Court. According to affidavit number PorPan 574/2558 filed by Tungkhum Co. Ltd, the gold-mining company is seeking 50 million Baht ($1,401,912 USD) in a civil defamation lawsuit against the 6 KRBK leaders for banners hung at the village entrance, including a large banner saying: “This Village Doesn’t Want Mining”.
On the first day of court, the six defendants, Mr. Suraphan Rujichaiwat, Mrs. Wiron Rujichaiwat, Mr. Khonglai Phakmi, Mr. Samai Phakmi, Mrs. Pornthip Hongchai and Mrs. Mon Kunna gave their witness testimonies. According to the defence team, the human rights defenders testified that it was the decision of the village to put up the banner, no single person, and that the message on the banner referred to any company that invests in the mining industry that has caused environmental contamination by chemicals.
In the afternoon of 25 February 2016 the trial continued with defence witnesses Dr. Niran Pitakwatchara, M.D., former Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission, and Ms. Khun Penchoem Chaetang from Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand. Both testimonies reflected the opinion that the banners were hung as a last resort of the people, seeing that the Loei villagers have been fighting for the safety of their environment and their livelihoods without results. Both experts mentioned the problems associated to cyanide contamination, a chemical regularly used in mining, and the danger such contamination poses to the village.
According to Dr. Niran’s testimony public health authorities already declared it unsafe to eat shells or fish from the river and drink water from areas around the mine, but no action has been taken to investigate further. He also stressed that people have the right to participate in public life, to demand state authorities to investigate, to protest and to defend the environment.
The verdict on the case will be delivered at Loei Provincial Court at 9:00AM, 30 March 2016.