Between the 13 and the 16 October, nine residents of the Nanongbong village have been heard in the Loei Provincial Court on the case against two suspects allegedly behind the 15th May 2014 attack on the Nanongbong village.
On that night , around 10.00 p.m., a group of approximately 300 armed men entered Nanongbong village, part of Khon Rak Ban Koed Conservtive Group, and attacked the villagers.
Amongst others, they were assaulted, tied up and held hostage for about 7 hours, tortured and threatened with rape. More than 20 of them suffered injuries, of which at least 7 were severely injured and had to be hospitalised. Many villagers also lost valuable property such as gold chains, and some also suffered property damage.
The attack followed a legal action carried by the Phuthapfa gold mining by Tungkum Limited (TKL), who filed 7 criminal lawsuits against 33 villagers, alleging trespass and loss of property, and took civil action against 20 villagers, demanding a compensation of 270 million Thai Baht (approximately 8.3 million US Dollars). All the legal cases were withdrawn, except for one case that has been postponed indefinitely. In December 2014 after the agreement the company transported the ore out of the gold mine. But in 2015, the company again filed new five cases against these community-based Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).
Just three weeks before the attack, on 20thApril 2014, TKL sent a middleman to negotiate with the village leaders by offering to withdraw three of TKL’s lawsuits against the villagers in exchange for lifting the barricade, which was blocking the access to the mine. The village leaders declined the offer.
On the following day, 21st April 2014, Lieutenant Colonel Poramet Promnak, accompanied by 15 men wearing black, went to see Mr. Surapan Rujchiawat, a leader of Kon Rak Ban Koed Group to demand the removal of the barricade, so as to allow through trucks transporting copper ore from the mine.
The night of the attack the barriers that the villagers had constructed to block access to the mine were then destroyed, and about 13 trucks were then seen transporting materials from the mine.
By using this first precedent-setting cases and empowering victims of attacked , KRBG and their lawyer proceeds through partnership with public prosecutor working to shift the focus back to the defenders and survivors of human rights abuses. The Public Prosecutor has filed cases concerning the 15th May attack on KRBG and Nanongbong village – a Criminal Case and a Civil Case.
On the day of the hearing, more than 100 representatives from villagers and community based HRDs have been present in court as a show of support and solidarity, during the witness testimonials.
The witnesses testified as what happened that night, the injuries they suffered, the fear they felt and two of them were able to positively identify one of the two accused persons.
This case relating to a mass attack against community based HRDs by a large number of unidentified armed men, is the first of its kind in Thailand.
The fact that the accused in this case are State officials, more precisely soldiers, also sets a precedent in Thailand. The fact that no speedy action by any local authorities to timely assist the affected villagers on the night of 15th May 2014 demonstrates how impunity of authorities causes the latter to disregard their duties, or worse, when it comes to community-based HRDs.
Next hearing will be on October 27-30 and November 2, 2015.
In the hope of action to support the struggle of the KRGB to achieve justice for the crimes perpetrated, Protection International is calling for support from international Human Rights community to KRGB, in the form of resources for this legal action, and on-going monitoring of the court trials. According to this purpose, Protection International will keep monitoring the trial and the up-coming developments.