On the 25th of June the Khon Ruk Ban Kerd (KRBK) Conservation Group, a community organization based in Loei province, North-Eastern Thailand, released a statement to express its solidarity with the Dao Din student Human Rights Defenders, who have been issued with arrest warrants for having peacefully demonstrated in honor of the first anniversary of the country’s coup-d’état on June 24th.
The group, formed by 6 villages striving to protect the environment and defend natural resources from the exploitation of gold mining by unethical investors and companies, also denounces the threats and intimidations directed at Na Nong Bong villagers since allowing Dao Din activists to come work in the village.
Forward Declaration of the Khon Ruk Ban Kerd Conservation Group
Our six villages have been affected by gold mining and it has prompted us to form the Khon Ruk Ban Kerd Conservation Group composed of members from the six villages around the mining site. What we have been doing is to conserve and protect natural resources, forest, mountains, and water supplies which have nourished our livelihood since we were born. We want to preserve them for our children. We have the legal right and constitutional right to protect our natural resources. It is justified for us to rise up and struggle.
Once we have chosen to fight, we have been offered with help from people including students and various organizations which want to help us without wanting anything in return. They are our children, they are our guests who help us and care for us all along. These students have helped to impart their knowledge to the community and in return they have learned about the way of life in our community. Many organizations have contributed to strengthen our group. They are our sisters and brothers.
After the coup, our rights and freedom have been severely restricted. We can only campaign in our area and we are always accused of being involved with political factions. Due to the protest on 22 May, our children, the members of Dao Din, have been pressed with charges. As we have made a visit to them to show our solidarity with them, our group has been subjected to close monitoring. And on 19 June, the Dao Din members came to work with us in the village. They helped to plow the land and plant the rice shoots as they used to do. They even declared openly that if the police wanted to arrest them, they would wait there. They would not resist the arrest and would surrender themselves completely.
After the students left our village, officials from various agencies, military, police, administrative organizations, came to our village to look for the Dao Din members. They threatened us and our guests. A number of personnel have been mobilized to pressure us to give them the answer. They even claimed that Na Nong Bong Village is a hub of gangsters and kept taking our pictures.
We keep wondering if the state is sincere, why did they not talk to us sincerely? They kept driving their cars round and round the village and kept taking so many pictures. It has caused us concern and annoyance. Since we are being watched, we can become a target anytime. The military even asked us to report to them when there are five people and upward entering our village. We cannot help but asking why the state has to put enormous pressure on the villagers. Meanwhile, as the mining project’s staff drives their cars in and out several times a day do they have to report themselves to the military, or not?
Their actions are deemed improper by our group as they were committed by state officials. They are operating in stealth, just like what a criminal would do. Thus, Na Nong Bong Village wants to condemn the police for exercising their power beyond their duties and we want to declare that if you want to enter our village we will not welcome you. We will respond as long as you keep intimidating us and forcing us to act in compliance with your orders. If you make us upset and shocked and if you infringe on our rights and freedom to communicate, we will fight you till the end.
With respect in people’s rights and liberty,
Khon Ruk Ban Kerd Conservation Group,
25 June 2015