Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Will the only 2 persons charged for the 2014 attack of a Thai community(Loei) and HRDs go scot free?

Thailand: upcoming verdict in Loei attack case important test of rights of human rights defenders

The ongoing criminal trial in the Loei Provincial Court, where a verdict is awaited tomorrow, is an important test of Thailand’s commitment to hold those responsible for criminal offences against human rights defenders to account, the ICJ and Protection International said today.

On 31 May, the Loei Provincial Court will render its verdict following the trial of retired Royal Thai Army officer, Lt Gen Poramet Pomnak, and his son, Royal Thai Army officer, Lt Col Poramin Pomnak, on criminal charges related to their alleged participation in a violent attack by a group of over 100 armed men against members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group (KRBKG) in Nanonbong village in Loei and other villagers.

The victims were assaulted and held captive for over seven hours during the attack in the evening of 15 May 2014.

More than 20 people were injured, with seven requiring hospitalization for serious injuries.
KRBKG is a community-based group protesting what they allege is the damaging impact of mining operations on their health and their environment.

Most of KRBKG’s activities have focused on stopping the operations of the Phuthapfa gold mine operated by Thai company, Tungkum Ltd., situated in Loei Province.

“This case has become emblematic of the human rights abuses faced by human rights defenders trying to protect their communities in Thailand,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia Director. “Many people are looking at this case to see whether the Thai government will follow through on its commitment to protect human rights defenders.”

The attack on Nanonbong village occurred after KRBKG and local residents barricaded the road to the gold mine, which passes through the village.

During the attack, the barricade was destroyed and at least 13 trucks were reportedly seen transporting materials from the mine site.

Partly based on the villagers’ testimony that Lt Col Poramet Pomnak and Lt Col Poramin Pomnak were involved in the 15 May violence, the two were indicted on several charges, including offences of ‘injury to the person causing bodily harm’ and ‘false imprisonment’ (or illegal deprivation of liberty), under articles 295 and 309 of the Thai Criminal Code.

“Given credible reports that a group of over 100 armed men were involved, the ICJ is concerned that only two people have been indicted for the attack, and we are therefore calling on the Thai authorities to re-open investigations and ensure all those responsible are held to account and redress is provided for the victims concerned,” Zarifi added.

The case against Lt Col Poramet Pomnak and Lt Col Poramin Pomnak comes against a background of disputes between KRBKG and Tungkum Ltd.

The company filed at least 19 criminal and civil lawsuits against 33 members of KRBKG and other villagers in the past seven years.

One of those cases includes claims of criminal defamation against a 15-year old girl who allegedly made negative statements about the company’s activities on a television program.

Members of KRBKG have joined as plaintiffs in the criminal case and are demanding compensation from the two defendants.


Lt Col Poramet Pomnak and Lt Col Poramin Pomnak were formally indicted on the following charges of the Thai Penal Code: articles 295 (‘injury to the person causing bodily harm’) and 296 (sentencing for bodily harm), 309 (‘false imprisonment’ or ‘illegal confinement’) and 310 (sentencing for false imprisonment), 358 (‘offence of mischief’ or ‘damage to property’) 371 (‘offence of bearing arms’), 376 (‘offence of discharging a firearm’), 391 (sentencing for acts of violence not amounting to bodily harm) taken together with articles 32, 33, (‘forfeiture of property used in the commission of an offence’) 83, 84, (principals and accomplices, accessories or conspirators) 91, (articles 90 and 91 set out provisions for sentencing when an act constitutes multiple offences. Sentences can be awarded for each offence consecutively, but with a maximum time as prescribed by article 91); and articles 4, 7, 8bis, 72, 72bis of the Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, Fireworks, and the Equivalent of Firearms Act B.E.2490 (1947); article 3 of the Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, Fireworks, and the Equivalent of Firearms Act (No.3) B.E.2501 (1958); No. 3, 6, 7 of the Order of the Announcement of the National Administrative Reform Council no.44 dated 21 October 1976.

Thailand has a legal obligation to protect all human rights defenders from retaliation for the legitimate and lawful exercise of their rights. On 17 December 2015, Thailand joined 126 other States at the UN General Assembly in adopting one of the latest UN resolutions on human rights defenders. General Assembly resolution 70/161 recognizes the importance of States’ protection of human rights defenders, in particular from being prosecuted for peaceful activities and against other threats, harassment and intimidation; and encourages States to investigate allegations of intimidation and reprisals, and to bring perpetrators to justice.

Source: International Commission of Jurist(ICJ)

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 records of Fortify Rights, a rights group, showed that the company has brought at least 19 criminal and civil lawsuits against 33 members of the KRBKG and other villagers in the past seven years, pressing for a total of Bt320 million in compensation. After yesterday's verdict, 19 villagers still face criminal and civil cases.

"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

No comments: