Protection International monitors the mediation process between the Udon Thani Conservation Group and local authorities in charge of mining industry regulation in Ban Sangkom village of Udon Thani Province in North-Eastern Thailand. The Udon Thani Conservation Group has been protesting against a potash-mining project since 2000 and has become a leading group amongst community-based human rights defenders of E-San, Thailand’s rural northeast region.
August 19th, 2014. Udon Thani Province, Thailand – Recently, Udon Thani’s Deputy-Governor announced the formation of a new ‘Stakeholders’ Committee’ that would be tasked with supervising mining company activities and document how they affect the environment. This Committee would also be charged with appointing a researcher to investigate such impacts made by mining activities.
On 15th August, the nomination of two community representatives took place in Ban Sangkom village as a first step towards creating this “Stakeholders’ Committee”.
The nomination process of these two representatives was however worrisome: under instructions from the Governor, the village headman allowed a nominee approval process of just one hour and a half, or between 8:00am and 9:30 am. During this narrow timeframe, villagers were invited to sign their name on a registry and simply approve the names of two nominees who would represent the villagers in the Stakeholders’ committee. As most people in the village work in the fields during the morning hours, only eleven people had signed the registry when the village headman closed the process.
The Udon Thani Conservation Group is deeply concerned with this newly established Stakeholders’ Committee.
Their main concerns are as follows:
- An existing joint committee between the Udon Thani Conservation Group and the Department of Basic Industries and Mining has not concluded its work on the environmental, health and social impacts of the planned mine. The community organization is concerned that this newly established ‘Stakeholders’ Committee’ could hamper on the existing committee’s work, thus raising tensions in the dispute.
- Concerning the Stakeholders’ Committee intention to commission research, no such research can be correctly carried out at this time given the results of a technical study by the National Health Commission Office of Thailand’s of the company’s Environmental and Health Impact Assessment are still pending. The Udon Thani Conservation Group also awaits the results of this study before assessing.
- The Udon Thani Conservation Group has already submitted a list of persons who will be severely impacted by the potash-mining project. This list is composed of 5,765 villagers, including 1,580 landowning villagers.
- The Udon Thani Conservation Group considers the process by which the Stakeholders’ Committee is being established as illegitimate. The process violates a Memorandum of Understanding concluded on 19th May between local authorities and the Udon Thani Conservation Group which states that no further actions could be undertaken until the joint committee completed its work.
Protection International firmly believes that the Udon Thani Conservation Group should be properly involved in the decision-making process and encourages the national authorities to develop mechanisms to ensure that the affected communities are considered as the most important stakeholders in this process that challenges social justice.
To more about the social justice challenges faced by the Udon Thani Conservation Group, please head to the website of PI Protection Desk Thailand.
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