Thailand: upcoming verdict in Loei attack case important test of rights of human rights defenders
Tungkum loses another round in legal battle with villagers
GOLD-MINER Tungkum failed in its bid to seek a Bt50-million compensation from villagers in Loei, as the Loei Provincial Court rejected its appeal yesterday.The six defendants had last year erected signs at the Na Nong Bong village entrance gate and along the main road within the village, calling for the closure of the mine and rehabilitation of the local environment. Tungkum sought compensation for alleged damage to the company's reputation.
Thiraphan Phankhiri, the lawyer for the villagers, said the court believed the villagers had been affected in some way by this latest in a series of legal actions against them. The villagers were acknowledged for their peaceful and legal fight.
The verdict brought cheers from about 60 villagers who were present in the court. The six are core members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group (KRBKG) - a community-based group committed to defending the local environment from negative impacts of the gold mine.
Conflict between the company and villagers has been ongoing for years.
"The company is on a legal rampage to silence its critics," said Amy Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights. "If Tungkum is truly concerned about its reputation, it should rethink its business and legal strategy and drop these charges."
"These lawsuits are not an individual matter, but a public matter, and everyone in our community has been affected," said Surapun Rujichaiyavat, a Facebook user. He was accused of harming the company's reputation by allegedly posting on Facebook a petition letter demanding an investigation into the legality of the mining concession and transport of ore from the mine site. Tungkum dropped the case against him on March 10.
On March 7, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand honoured women of the KRBKG with a prestigious women's human rights defenders award for their role in bringing much-needed attention to critical human rights problems in Thailand. - Nation, 31/3/2016