THAILAND: Courts used to harass defenders 

A group of human rights defenders in Northeast Thailand has been forced into a frivolous and damaging case in court, due to their attempts to protect community resources against a gold mining operation.

According to Thailand’s Rights Coalition, Protection International, and theCommunity Resource Centre, TungkhumLimited is seeking 50 million Baht (around USD $1.4 million) in a civil defamation lawsuit from sixKhonRak Ban Kerd Village leaders for a banner they erected at the entrance to their village.

The banner read,“This Village Doesn’t Want Mining” and “Close the mine for the peace of mind of the community”.

The six defendants are: Mr.SuraphanRujichaiwat, Mrs.WironRujichaiwat, Mr.KhonglaiPhakmi, Mr.SamaiPhakmi, Mrs.PornthipHongchai, and Mrs. Mon Kunna.

The six defendants gave their witness testimonies on 24 February 2016. Seventyvillagers, mostly women human rights defenders, went to the court to support the defendants.

The human rights defenders testified that it was a collective decision taken by the villagers to put up the banner. No leader imposed the decision. The action came out of the fact that people’s livelihoods have been damaged by the activities ofthe mine.

Furthermore, the purpose of the action was communicated to State agencies,in the hope that a solution could be found to rehabilitate the chemically contaminated areas of the village that are affecting livelihoods. The fact that the villagers still had to put up the banner reaffirms that the authorities have not been able to solve the problem.

Professor ArpaWangkiat, Engineering Faculty, Rangsit University, and member of the Sub-Committee on Community Rights of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), gave additional testimony in court.

Professor Arpa testified on the issue of heavy metal contamination in soil sediment around the gold mining area. The testimony confirmed the possibility of contaminants being present in food, plants, and water, asa result of the mining activities.

On 25 February 2016, Dr.NiranPitakwatchara, MedicalDoctor andformer commissioner of the NHRC, and Ms.PenchoemChaetang from Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand (EARTH)also spoke in court.

Dr.Niran said that to put up a banner is part of the process of people exercising their right to public participation and of holding someone accountable, by informing the public and authorities about the issues facing people. Furthermore, the banner was a way for people to inform the public that they were still affected by the negative impacts of the mining, and a way to voice their concerns.

In addition, from Ms.Penchoem’s perspective, the banner represents a last resort. The authorities have not solved the problem despite people making many complaints and informing authorities that they should launch an investigation.

The AHRC has also received information from the lawyer team representing the villagers in the dispute between the Loei villagers (which includes the KhonRak Ban Kerd group) and theTungkum gold-mining company.

In the past, the company has filed more than 16 lawsuits against human rights defenders in Loei Province.

The verdict will be delivered at Loei Provincial Court at 9am, 30 March 2016.

For further information, please contact:
KhonRak Ban Kerdgroup (KRBK)
+6693-494-7844 (Thai)

Community Resource Centre Foundation
+6681-772-5843 (English and Thai) or

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER