August 8th, 2014. Loei Province, Thailand
Despite increasing pressure from military occupation and serious security threats, the community-lead group Khon Rak Ban Kerd (KBRK) continues to seek justice for damage caused by gold mining operations of the company Thung Kham Limited (TKL) in Thailand’s Loei province.
Military not working in the interest of the community
Last June, The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) deployed about 120 soldiers in Loei’s Wangsaphung district to guard six villages where tensions between villagers and the mining company Tungkum Limited Company (TKL) were high.
Currently, military forces remain camped in the villages, and scout patrols occur daily. Soldiers are ordered to remove all banners speaking out against the gold mine, demanding for rehabilitation, compensation, or termination of the mining operation. The soldiers warned that if no agreement to negotiate was reached between the villagers and TKL, the villagers would no longer be allowed to display such banners in the village.
28th July 2014, the military called for a public hearing to be held with all the villagers to determine how the conflict with TKL could be resolved. However, village leaders Mrs. Porntip Hongchai and Ms. Pattraporn Kaengjampa, both members of the KBRK, refused to attend any such meeting.
When questioned by the army as to why they refused the invitation, Ms. Kaengjampa replied that they felt the army was overstepping its duty by interfering in the community’s conflict with TKL. She also stated that the community’s demands were still those that had been sent to the NCPO in July.
After a meeting on August 5th with the National Human Rights Committee, KBRK met with local authorities and expressed its concerns about the military occupation. The meeting included the Loei Lieutenant Governor as well as officials from the Thai Departments of Industry, Mines, and Pollution Control. Concerning KBRK’s criticism that the military’s committees were not working in the interest of the community, the Lieutenant Governor replied that he had no authority over the Khaoloung Special Unit occupying Wangsapung.
Follow-up on the May 15th attack
Since the violence of 15 May, nearly a month has passed. Local authorities (including the Department of Industries and Mines), police, and soldiers all maintain that TKL’s mining and movement of ore and materials out of the mine is “legal.”
Nevertheless, the Loei community has asked for a follow-up on the criminal lawsuit it filed with police for the May 15th attack by an unidentified gunman, however, there have been no signs of any progress with the investigation. On 24th July, five students from Daodin were asked to present themselves at the City Hall when they came to collect information on the attack. There the students were asked to hand over their student IDs, and the military also asked for fingerprints and photocopies of the student’s ID cards. The students were also interrogated on the object and motivation of their visit in relation to the 15th May attack.
*To learn more about KBRK and PI’s Protection Desk in Thailand, click here.