THAILAND: Death threat made against human rights defender in Loei

Death threats still stand and are repeated against the Wang Saphung community

We, the undersigned 18 organisations, are deeply concerned about the Wang Saphung community’s situation. The death threats against 10 community members are still standing. More worryingly, we have been told by community leader MrsVironRujichaiwat – mother of a one-month old baby – that she received a phone call from an unidentified man, on the eve of the community’s reconciliation meeting – Saturday 16th August at 19:00. Here is the transcript of their conversation.

Unidentified man: “Are you the wife of SurapanRujichaiwat?
VironRujichaiwat: Yes.
Unidentified man: Tell your husband that he watch out for himself.
VironRujichaiwat: Who are you?
Unidentified man: If your husband doesn’t stop his campaigning he will suffer the consequences.”

We see this phone call as a renewed death threat against community leader MrSurapanRujichaiwat, and also against MrsVironRujichaiwat. This event worries us greatly regarding the security of Wang Saphung community leaders under death threats, and of the community as a whole.

Moreover, the Wang Saphung community’s dispute with the gold-mining company, Tung Kha Limited Company (TKLC), is at a very tense stage. This week (19th-22nd August), the Loei Court will start the trials for the first two of seven legal cases against a total of 33 community members. This judicial harassment will drain a lot of attention and energy from the community as a whole.

The Wang Saphung’s community organization, KhonRak Ban Kerd Group (KBRK), has also informed us on the result of their reconciliation meeting on Sunday 17th August, with TKLC representatives, which was mediated by Wang Saphung District Chief. All relevant authorities were also present, including the Maj. Gen. WoratatSupattananon (Military District Commanding Officer, Loei Province),Governor VirojJivarangsan, the Deputy-Governor, the Provincial Police Chief, Mr VichaiCherdchivasart (Managing Director of TKLC), and the concerned village headmen.

After the meeting the KBRK clearly told us that no agreement had been reached during the heated meeting. The company proposed no changes to the current situation, which has seen all mining operations suspended since before the 15th of May attack on the Wang Saphung community. The KBRK asked for all the legal cases against community members to be lifted in the spirit of reconciliation. This proposal was categorically refused by the company, as were all the other proposals from the Wang Saphung community representatives. As the meeting resolved none of the outstanding issues between the community and the company, the authorities concluded the meeting by calling for another reconciliation meeting between all stakeholders to take place in a month’s time.

We believe that the Wang Saphung community will continue to engage in all mediation efforts. This is because we deem that it is the community itself which has the most at stake in seeing the tense situation resolved, as they are the ones suffering both from the mining activities and from the deteriorating security situation.

We call upon the authorities to:

  1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and independent investigation into the death threats against MrSurapanRujichaiwat, and also against MrsVironRujichaiwat with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
  2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee at all times the physical and psychological integrity of  MrSurapanRujichaiwat, and also that of MrsVironRujichaiwat and all other leaders of the KBRK and their families, including reinforcing any existing protection measures where necessary;
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Thailand are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

We call upon the general public and all stakeholders to:

  1. Publicly condemn the threats and harassment suffered by KBRK and the Wang Saphung community as a whole;
  2. Listen to all stakeholders in this dispute, in order to avoid a one-sided perception of the dispute which can only aggravate the already tense situation;

We call on the media to give a voice to all central stakeholders in this dispute.

Signed By:

1. NGOs Coordinating Committee, Northeastern Region
2. E-san Human Rights and Peace Information Centre
3. Network for Isaan Natural Resources and Environment
4. Eco-Culture Study Group
5. Center for Community Information for Social Justice
6.  The Udonthani Conservation Group
7. People’s Network on Community’s Mineral Resources
8. Mid-Chi Basin Community Group,
9. Dao Din Student Group 
10. Assembly of the Poor, Rasi Salai Dam’s affected group
11. Lam Panieng Basin Conservation and Rehabilitation Group, NongBuaLamphu Province
12. Mekong Studies Group
13. Mekong River Conservation Group, Pakchom District, Loei Province
14. Community Resources Centre
15. Cross Cultural Foundation
16. Protection International
17.  EnLAW Thai Foundation
18.  People’s  Empowerment Foundation

Document Type : Forwarded Statement
Document ID : AHRC-FST-062-2014
Countries : Thailand,
Issues : Democracy, Human rights defenders, Impunity, Military,