The Khon Rak Ban Kerd [KRBK] group is made of villagers from 6 villages affected by the gold mining operations by the company Thung Kam Co Ltd in Loei province, in North Eastern Thailand. The KRBK group strives to protect the environment and to defend natural resources against exploitation by unethical investors who have no respect for the wellbeing of the local people and community, environment, public health and human rights.
11 January 2015, a villager from Fag Huay, North Easteren Thailand, passed away. In a statement, KRBK ask for one minute in commemoration of the departure of Uncle Suwat Juttano and extend their solidarity to those who fight to “close the mine and restore the environment”.
Read the statement below.
Close the mine and restore the environment are our goals
First of all, our deepest condolence on the death of Uncle Suwat Juttano, a villager from Fag Huay, who has left us on 11 January 2015. People claim his death has nothing to do with contamination from the gold mine, even though the contaminated stream is situated right by his paddy field and cyanide has been constantly flushed downstream to his food production ground. Given the high toxicity of the reservoir behind the mine, the streams below it have often turned into weird colors.
The tragic departure of Uncle Suwat does attest to the outdated and irrelevant functioning of the bureaucracy and academic circle in Thai society which have failed to establish the link between the frail health and diseases that have ravaged the communities with the origin of the pollution from the mine sites located so immediate to the communities.
After all, the departure of Uncle Suwat has amply empowered us and inspired us even more to move toward closing the mines and restoring the environment simply because we do not want to see more tragic and untimely deaths. The deaths of our people may become just a subject of study for the selfish state agencies and academics who as a result of their scant moral courage have failed to establish the connection between the morbidity and mortality in the communities with the polluting mining operation.
In the past two years, the Khon Ruk Ban Kerd Conservation Group has been wading through intense pressure. Legal cases have been filed against us, and our folk have been brutally beaten up by a racket of military officials the night of 15 May 2014. Investigation into the incidence has been so slow and no one has yet been held accountable. Worse, we have been subject to sheer pressure from the military officials from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). Stationed in this area, instead of providing security to our lives and properties, they have been taking side with the mining operators and have been instrumental in any move made by them. We have simply been told to stop any activity against the mining operation.
Meetings and consultations have been banned; no signs or banners against the mine can be put up. In every move we have made, we have constantly been put under close vigil of the authorities even when we marched against the mine, and other activities.
Eventually, a deal was struck for us to sign a MoU to allow the mining operator to move out the remaining ore and to resume their operation in exchange for their withdrawal of all the cases against us. The Khon Ruk Ban Kerd ( KRBG) Conservation Group of six villages would like to make it publicly known that in fact the deal only covers the transport of all the remaining ore outside the area and the withdrawal of the cases. It has nothing to do with allowing them to resume their mining operation.
The death of Uncle Suwat could only be attributed to his muscular weakness and feeble limbs due to his chronic intake of heavy metal over the standard though the authorities have failed to establish the link between the ailment and pollution from the mining operation. It has made us realize that Thai society has reached the point where intellectual paralysis has made them fail to value our humanity. We do not want to fall victim to the mine anymore. The only solution that will ensure our safe living and comfortable and peaceful well being is the permanent closure of the mine and the restoration of the environment as well as the remediation of our health. In addition, no more new gold mining concessions to be granted on Phu Lek hill, adjacent to Phu Tab Fa ; we shall never let it happen.
An eye for an eye, we pledge to fight head on with brevity to protect our homeland and keep it for our children and no one can any longer divide us.
May all of us, all distinguished friends, stay in silence for one minute in commemoration of the departure of Uncle Suwat Juttano and may we extend our solidarity to those who fight to “close the mine and restore the environment”.
In solidarity with all Thai people,
Khon Ruk Ban Kerd Conservation Group of six villages
Tambon Khao Luang, Wangsaphung Distric, Loei Province, Thailand