The Khon Rak Ban Kerd [KRBK] group is made up of villagers from 6 villages affected by the gold mining operations by the company Thung Kam Co Ltd in Loei province, in North Eastern Thailand. The KRBK group strives to protect the environment and defend natural resources against exploitation by unethical investors who have no respect for the well-being of the local people and community, environment, public health, and human rights.
In Loei, the company TungKam Limited Corporation has been granted mining concessions and carried out mining activities in 6 sites affecting people in 6 villages. The mining activities have caused environmental problems and have affected the health of the community.
People have been struggling for justice for over 10 years. Sadly, government authorities have been negligent in their duties and showed little concern about the well-being and rights of the local people who continue to suffer the effects of poisoning from mining activities.
KRBK believes that a real solution can only be achieved by careful intervention and with the participation of all stakeholders, particularly the affected people who are in the area.
On the contrary, the villagers and their leaders have been prevented from participating in the decision-making process related to the mining concessions.
For example, on 8 September 2013, more than 600 police officers prevented the villagers from participating in the public scoping exercise, which was part of the Environmental Health Impact Assessment (EHIA). This EHIA will inform the Government decision about granting a new concession to Tungkam Limited Corporation as well as for the extension and/or expansion of the existing concessions.
Violent incidents and attacks to the communities increased in recent months and as a result on 9 June 2014, NCOP sent over 100 soldiers to provide security for the villagers. The development has been appreciated by the group who however remain concerned because of the military attempt to mediate the crisis.
Recently the army is said to have set up 4 committees to solve the crisis in Loei. The 4 committees are The Committee to Solve the Gold Mining Problem; the Committee to Solve the Waterbody Problem; the Committee to Rehabilitate Health and Environment; and the Committee to Hold a Public Hearing. Members of these committees include the chief of the provincial army and the governor; the deputy governor will serve as Chairperson.
The KRBK group expressed concern about the manner in which these committees have been set up, their composition, their mandate, and their method of operation. Most of the committee is made up of police officers and soldiers based in the area and the only people’s representatives seem to be the head of the village and the Local Administrative Organisation. Community-based organizations, such as the KRBK group, have not been given the opportunity to participate.
The army has recently requested villagers to attend a public hearing on 7 July, but the process and procedures followed are still unclear. The greatest concern is whether the people’s voices will be taken into consideration in decision-making.
Because of the lack of clarity and doubts about the sincerity of the process, the KRBK group decided not to participate in the Public Hearing on 7 July 2014. On the contrary, KRBK has put forward for consideration 6 clear demands. These demands were sent to the Chief of NCOP on 2 July, the Commander of the 2nd Army Region and Provincial Army Commander, Loei province.
In complying with the villagers’ demands, the people must be involved in the process together with experts and other stakeholders.
In brief, the villagers’ demands are:
- Revoke the mining concession of the company in 6 areas of Phu Thap Fa, and Phu Sam Pa Bon in Tambon Khao Luang, Wang Saphung district of Loei province.
- Revoke the mining concession permit of the company for mineral processing, which consists of initially breaking down the ore, by crushing, grinding, sieving as well as metallurgical process.
- Order the company to remove the heavy machinery and all equipment from the mines.
- Transport all the mined ore from the mines.
- Close the mines and rehabilitate the environment, health, diversity, and well-being of the people
- Provide adequate remedies for all villagers in the 6 areas affected by the mining activities
Evidence has already shown that the community has been affected by mining activities for the last 10 years. The Khon Rak Ban Kerd [KRBK] group believes that to solve the problem, it is best to start from the root causes – which are the gold mining activities and the concession given to the mining company.
The Khon Rak Ban Kerd [KRBK] group believes that to bring back the happiness of the people of the affected 6 villages, a solution has to be based on the principle of respecting community rights and the people’s legitimate right to preserve and manage natural resources and environment in a manner consistent with their traditions, way of life of the people and in line with the method of the sufficiency economy and sustainable conservation of the environment.
The process must be fair, transparent, and accountable. It can only be fair when the rights and opinions of the people are respected, and people’s participation is ensured.
Khon Rak Ban Kerd [KRBK] will not stop fighting for justice and will continue to use peaceful and non-violent action to achieve its objectives.
Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group
Khao Luang, Wang Saphung district of Loei Province, Thailand
7 July 2014