HRDs being interviewed by journalists


Intimidation against villagers who oppose coal-fired power plant must stop

30 May 2016

Press Statement:

The Bamnet Narong Conservation Group

Military must stop intimidating villagers opposing the ASEAN Potash
Chaiyaphum PLC’s coal-fired power plant.

Since 16 February 2015, the government of the National Council for Peace

and Order (NCPO) has issued licenses to potash and rock salt mining of the

ASEAN Potash Chaiyaphum PLC in Bamnet Narong District, Chaiyaphum, a

collaboration of six ASEAN country members based on the Basic Agreement On

ASEAN Industrial Joint Ventures. This project was to replace the previous

one for the production of rock salt and soda ash, which had been cancelled

since 1989. After obtaining the licenses to operate potash and rock salt

mining, the company has embarked on constructing a coal-fired power plant

to meet the power need of the mines.

Initially, the majority of local villagers were not opposed to the potash

mining as they were expecting it to be a boost to local employment. But

after the licenses have been given to them, the company has also started

to push forward the construction of coal-fired power plant as well, and the

villagers felt like they were slapped on their faces and have been

deceived since for over two decades since the ASEAN agreement had come

into being, there was only the plan to develop potash mining, but the

coal-fired power plant. Lessons learned from the impacts of coal-fired power

plants in MaeMoh and Rayong have made local villagers fear for the potential

impacts and the future of their children. They are also concerned that the power

production capacity of the power plant shall be increased over the time

and it will cause more emission of toxic and pollution in local area.

Thus, the movement against the construction of the coal-fired power plant

has started as the villagers do not want to have their community facing

the same deadly predicament as in Mae Moh or in Rayong where local people have

suffered from massive health impacts causing extensive migration and

landlessness as well as the struggle for water supplies between the

villagers and the industrial sector.

Local people have formed themselves as the “Bamnet Narong Conservation

Group” and risen up against the construction of the coal-fired power

plant. Through verbal and written complaints, they have asked for more

information and submitted their letters of petition to concerned government

agencies including the Damrong Tham Center, embassies of the six ASEAN nations,

letters of petition submitted during the meeting of shareholders of the

investing company.

Still, the company has paid no attention to the voices of people living

around the mining site and continued to push ahead the coal-fired power

plant project. Meanwhile, any activities by the Bamnet Narong Conservation

Group have often been met with interventions from government officials who

have threatened to invoke power of the Constitution’s Section 44 and the

Public Assembly Act against them. Uniform and plainclothes police and

military officials have been despatched to conduct surveillance in the

villages. The group has been forced to ask for permission prior to

organizing any public events. They are told they could face prosecutions

for proceeding to participate or to organize any public activities. For

example, once, the military officials invoked power per Section 44 to have

the villagers remove their campaign t-shirts while attending a tripartite

forum of the mining industry. They were also barred from organizing a

traditional Buddhist ceremony to fundraise even though it had been

practiced for a long time. They had decided to change the venue of the

ceremony three times. Still, some men had been sent to put pressure on the

owners of the venues to disallow the organizing of the ceremony in March

2016. Even the pitching of banners opposing the coal-fired power plant in

various spots, in either private or public property, is prohibited.

Meanwhile, the company has been allowed to organize any activities to

promote their project and are not required to ask for any prior

permission. Local leaders including the Village Headmen and Tambon Headmen

have also been instructed to warn the villagers against any attempt to oppose or

protest the coal-fired power plant project. The local leaders keep telling

the villagers that if they do not stop organizing the opposition

activities, they shall be deprived of their right to access to

compensations for flood or drought and access to the Village Fund.

Of late, the intimidation by the military has intensified as on the

morning of 21 May 2016, around 10.50am, two military officials in their

fatigues and one plainclothes official with the Headman of Ban Pet, Moo 2,

Tambon Ban Pet, Bamnet Narong District, Chaiyaphum, came in a four-doored

bronze pickup truck and a sedan, which pulled over in front of the

residence of Mr. Samoe Thernmongkhon, a villager opposing the power plant

project and a member of the Bamnet Narong Conservation Group. They

approached the house and asked the father and sister of the activist where

he was. They said they needed to talk with him since he was a core member

of the group protesting against the power plant. Mr. Samoe was not there

as he had been out for work. The officials went on to look for him at his

workplace, though they could not find him there either. The officials came

back to his house and took photo of the house and his sister, before


The coal-fired power plant project has been pressed ahead amidst

conflicts and by the use of sheer forces, a lack of impartiality among the

government officials and a lack of justice for the local villagers. As a

result, the local people feel scarred, suspicious and bitter. They are

holding a negative attitude toward the government officials and have begun

to question the development of potash mining which has been the impetus

for the construction of the coal-fired power plant.

The government who claims to restore happiness to its people should

therefore stop the action of the government officials, since what they

have been doing shall not bring about happiness to the people. The officials

are urged to behave impartially and ensure justice for the people. There shall

be no more surveillance and suppression of the right to freedom of

expression and the right to protect one own livelihood, the environment

and their decent culture. It is their fundamental right.

Last but not least, the Bamnet Narong Conservation Group declares its

stand against the construction of coal-fired power plant in any case. They

are determined to stand with Mr. Samoe Thernmongkhon to fight for their

cause despite all the intimidation, persecution and suppression against

them. Right now, the villagers are treated as a hostile party to the

government and are accused of stirring up havocs for the investors and the

state officials who support them. We shall stand side by side with Mr.

Samoe Thernmongkhon and with our bare hands shall continue our fight


In the wake of the second anniversary of the coup, a massive number of

people have been arrested simply for expressing their political views. In

fact, it is their very fundamental right and they should be allowed to

express themselves without being subject to intimidation and detention.

The massive power of the military has made military officials in

Chaiyaphum become merely mercenary troops ready to sever vested business

interest and to trample down on the rights and freedoms of the people who

have been opposed to the potash mining and the coal-fired power plant in

Bamnet Narong District, Chaiyaphum. Mr. Samoe Thernmongkhon is now facing

prosecution invoking the Head of the NCPO Order no. 13/2559 as any people

opposed to the construction of the coal-fired power plant are deemed as

troublemakers who jeopardize public order and economic and social


On behalf of the Bamnet Narong Conservation Group, we thank all villagers

from all villages and Tambons who have been standing with us in our fight

for over one year. We feel appreciated to our friends from various places

who have shared with us their solidarity in the attempt to preserve one’s

homeland and the Earth.

We shall fight bare-handedly and assertively today and in the future. And

we are determined to pass on to our children a toxic-free and peaceful


With the power of faith and unity

The Bamnet Narong Conservation Group

22 May 2016