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Mr Samai Phakmi, a Thai human rights defender (HRD) and member of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd (KRBK) group has been sued by the mining company Tungkum Company Limited (TKL) Loei, northeastern Thailand. 
The KRBK group consists of members from 6 villages in the Loei area that are affected by the gold mining operations from the gold-mining company TKL.
The 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.
Protection International (PI) strongly condemns the ongoing criminal defamation in Thailand used to pressure HRDs. Previously, PI accompanied and monitored the criminal defamation suit against Mr. Surapan Rujichaiwat, member of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd (KRBK) group.

 

Background
The suit against Mr. Samai Phakmi, also head of the Sub district Administrative Office Council, is for refraining from his official duty according to Criminal Proceeding against Officials under section 157 of the Thailand Penal Code.

 

The company filed Affidavit in Loei provincial court on February 6, 2015 but Samai received affidavit on February 14th, 2015. This is the tenth legal suit filed against the KRBG group by this company. Based on the company’s affidavit it states that “on 22 June B.C. 2555 (2012), the plaintiff had submitted the renewal of their concession as it would be
expired soon.

 

According to Forest Department policy it indicates that the plaintiff must not have any problems with the villagers in the mining area and must get the approval from Sub-district Committee or Sub-district Administrative Committee in the area.

 

On 11 December 2012, in the Sub-district Committee meeting, the defendant who is head of the Sub district Administrative Office Council and the member of Khao Loung Sub-district Committee must organize a meeting
according to the Ministry of Interior regulations. This means that the defendant must present the plaintiff’s renewal case/cases to the Khao Loung Sub-district Committee but the defendant failed to do so.

 

Also, the defendant is the leader of villagers fighting against the plaintiff to make the plaintiff’s business stop.According to the company these shows an intention that the defendant illegally abstains from his duty. In this case the plaintiff has not filed complaint with the inquiry officers but would like to bring the case by itself”.

 

Is this a tendency to misuse the provision concerning the offense of malfeasance in office of the Penal Code (Section 157) ?  In some cases Criminal prosecutions of such offense were wrongfully used as the instrument of threat to public officials by the company.

 

These practices cause disturbance to the performance of public officials as well as to public interest. There is already imbalance between substantive and procedural law of Thailand, i.e. substantive law provides broad scope of offenses while procedural law does not provide appropriate safeguard for public officials who execute their duties honesty.

 

The court appointment for a preliminary hearing on May 25, 2015 at 9:00am at the Loei provincial court. Apart from the legal case against the villagers, there is a death of Uncle Suwat Juttano, a villager from Fag Huay, who left on 11 January 2015. People claim his death has nothing to do with contamination from the goldmine, 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 serious incident of 300-armed men who attacked villagers and tried to kidnap the leaders of KRBG on May 15, 2014, the judicial system does not yet bring anyone accountable for that grave incident. This is the continuation of the judicial harassment against Human Rights Defenders. Are there enough efforts from the officials themselves to convict the perpetrator; the question which nobody has raised yet is how many officials are refraining from their official duty, who failed to protect the rights and livelihoods of villagers in six villages in the Khao Loung Sub-district?

 

Khon Rak Ban Kerd (KRBK) is a group of villagers from six villages, including all Nanongbong villagers, which have been protesting against the mining industry and the expansion of the Phuthapfa gold mine, Loei province, in North-eastern Thailand. This gold mine operates by Tungkum Limited Company (TKL). The Group was set up to monitor, inspect and watch over the impacts of gold mining on their villages. The KRBK has fought to protect the environment and natural resources of their villages and to uphold their community’s agricultural practices. The group has sought
information from TKL on the expansion of Phuthapfa gold mine’s impacts on the community’s environment.

 

The group has also advocated for the development of alternatives and the recognition of community rights to manage natural resources. In the past few years TKL has filed nine lawsuits against 33 villagers. TKL sought to lay criminal charges on the villagers for trespassing and loss of property.

 

TKL has allegedly stated that seven villagers trespassed into the company’s compound on September and October 2013. Additionally, the company has also taken civil action against 20 villagers. TKL has demanded compensation approximately 1.5 to 2.2 million US Dollars from each villager. The total amount of monetary compensation being sought by TKL is 270 million Thai Baht (approximately 8.3 million US Dollars). In  2014 Tung Kha Limited Company filed the defamation suit in Phuket provincial court against Mr. Surapan Rujichaiwat, Ms. Porntip Hongchai, Mr. Surapan Rujichaiwat, and Ms. Porntip Hongchai.

 

Based on the court affidavit dated 15 August 2014, the company accuses Mr. Surapan Rujichaiwat of damaging the reputation of the company by giving an interview to a TV station TNN24 on 16 and 17 May 2014. Ms. Porntip Hongcha is accused of damaging the reputation of the company by giving an interview on Nation TV on 16 May 2014. The company demands that both defendant/s publish the judgment in five main daily newspapers in Thailand for 30 days and that the defendant/s be responsible for expenses.

In the past two years, the Khon Ruk Ban Kerd Conservation Group has been wading through intense pressure. Legal cases have been filed against them, and their group  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, they 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 their lives and properties, the authorities have been taking side with the mining operators and have been instrumental in any move made by them. The villagers 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 they have made, they have constantly been put under close vigil of the authorities even when they marched against the mine, and other activities.

 

In December last year eventually, a deal was struck for villagers 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 them. The Khon Ruk Ban Kerd  (KRBG) Conservation Group of six villages previously  made  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.