Protection Desk-Thailand (PD-Thailand) was invited to brief European Union diplomats on the situation of human rights defenders at risk in Loei province in North Eastern Thailand, where local communities and their leaders work to protect the environment and their health from the negative effects of mining and to uphold their community’s agricultural practices.
In Loei violence has escalated against local communities and has reached a dangerous threshold. The local communities and their leaders have suffered physical assaults, threats, intimidation and harassment. The mining company Tungkum Limited has taken legal action against the villagers who have protested against the expansion of the Phuthapfa gold mine. On May 15 a group of approximately 300 unidentified armed men wearing black entered the village of Nanongbong, beat up the villagers and took about 40 persons, half of whom women, as captives or ‘hostages’. They reported being assaulted and threatened with guns, while some women said that their captors threatened to rape them as they laid there with hands and feet bound. The villagers were held captive for about seven hours whilst about 13 trucks were seen transporting materials from the mine. More than 20 people suffered injuries, 7 of which had to be hospitalized, and many villagers reported property loss or damage. The identity of the aggressors remains unknown.
The briefing was followed by a discussion on a number of recommendations to EU member states, including the need to ensure the safety of human rights defenders by means of keeping international attention on the situation of Loei and by monitoring court proceedings related to the case.
This is of particular importance at the time of political uncertainty in Thailand. On 20 May a martial law was officially declared, followed by a military coupe. All this has created a climate of repression and criminalization of protest which increases the likelihood of violence, and makes the possibility of redress more difficult.
For more information about the briefing, see attachment