Under rising tensions and increased security concerns, a public hearing was held last Friday 18 July in Loei province, North Eastern Thailand to collect testimonies and demands from members across 6 villages badly affected by gold mining operations of the company Thung Kam Co Ltd. Held by the community-lead group Khon Rak Ban Koed (KRBK), the hearing aimed at focusing efforts towards a resolution despite a recent armed attack of villagers on 15 May as well as 8 years of health and environmental threats caused by the operation of the Phuthapfa gold mine in Loei’s Wang Saphung district.
Despite invitations to participate by KRBK and a recent visit by the European Union (EU) delegation to Nanongbong village on 19 June, major government bodies were notably absent. Nevertheless, the hearing gathered input from communities’ 491 villagers, as well as their opinions on the recent formation of four Committees by Thailand’s military-led National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to address issues spurred by the mining activities.
The villagers do not accept the four committees set up by the NCPO, nor the Army’s proposal to only close the mines and restore the affected areas. Instead, group leaders insist that the villagers themselves need to be more involved in the process together with experts and the different stakeholders; if an authority wants to improve the lives of people, it should involve two fundamentals: Protection and Participation.
Today we conduct the public hearing to prove that, if there is political will, the process can be fair, transparent, and accountable. If the process is led by the people, then their rights and opinions are sure to be valued in the process towards a resolution of this issue.
As a result of the hearing, the villagers agreed to unify their voices around the following demands:
- Revoke mining concessions, permits, materials, and equipment of the mining company Thung Kam Co Ltd in the 6 affected areas throughout Loei province and close the mines.
- Enable rehabilitation of the environment, health, biodiversity, and well-being of the people in the 6 affected communities, and
- Provide adequate remedy and/or compensation towards this rehabilitation.
Representatives from Loei Provincial Authority have already accepted the outcomes of this public hearing and will be referring them to the High-Level Policy Makers.
A full version of the public hearing conclusions will be available for download soon.