THAILAND: COMMUNITY-BASED HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS URGE THE US AUTHORITIES TO CONDUCT AN INVESTIGATION ABOUT THE APICO (KHORAT) LIMITED OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION COMPANY
16 OCTOBER 2015
Thailand. On 13 Oct 2015, community-based Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) from the Baan Namoon Doonsad Conservation Group, an environmental conservation group from Khon Kaen province, rallied in front of the US Embassy in Bangkok to urge the US authorities to conduct an investigation into the operations of the Apico (Khorat) Limited, a US-based oil and gas exploration company operating in the area. This demonstration came one day after the Conservation Group submitted letters to relevant authorities at the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, calling on them to immediately halt the exploration activities of the company.
The Conservation Group, campaigning against the project since 2014, claims that local state officials’ used their power to facilitate the approval process and petroleum drilling operation and denounces two incidents occurred over the year.
The first incident took place from 12 – 18 February 2015, when security officials including Police and Army threatened, intimidated and blocked villagers from protesting or opposing the oil exploration process as convoys of trucks carrying drilling equipment were passing the Namoon village. More recently, On 5 October 2015, some villagers spotted a caravan of about 20 company trucks transporting oil-drilling equipment through the village without prior notification, and in the middle of the night when all the villagers were asleep.
October 6th, The villagers from The Namoon Doonsad Conservation Group requested The Khon Kaen Provincial administrative Court to make an inquiry on the application for a temporary injunction to halt gas burning and the drilling operation. No court order was yet given after the 15 October 2015 court hearing, and the gas burning continues despite reports of damage to the environment, tree crops, and people’s health.
The gas burning tests by the company are happening between 9th to 23rd October 2015, which is not according to the procedure in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report. According to the EIA report gas burning tests were planned for 22 days only, and they should end by 30th May 2015. However, authorities allowed the company to go ahead with a second round of gas burning tests in October, without awaiting for an Administrative Court ruling on the matter. As the company has started burning gas again, since 9th October, the last gas detectors readings in the area indicate levels of methane gas in the air. This is 2% LEL methane gas which is poisonous and negatively affects the health of local residents.
In the following statement, delivered outside the USA embassy in Bangkok by community-based HRDs, the Baan Namoon Doonsad Conservation Group, calls for respect and upholding of the communities’ right to access government and company information relating to projects that could have negative impacts on their livelihoods, right to participate in decision-making processes and right to good governance.
The Group has also called on USA authorities to conduct an impartial investigation into the lack of transparency and due process followed in the APICO (Khorat) Co. Ltd. project. Moreover, there has been the frequent and reported-on use of excessive force and threatening measures by local security authorities, in their facilitation of the company’s activities.
13 October 2015
Environmental Group Condemns the use of power consolidated since the 2014 military coup to facilitate and expedite the approval of petroleum exploration and drilling processes for the interest of the aAPICO (Khorat) Co. Ltd.
The petroleum production concession No.9/1993/66 in Dong Mun field was award solely to APICO (Khorat) Co. Ltd., a subsidiary company of APICO LLC Co., which was incorporated in Delaware, USA in 2002. The plot No. L27/43 located in Na Mun Dun Sad villages, Khon Kaeng province, northeast of Thailand was designated as part of the Dong Mun field.
Since the 22 May 2014 military coup, the Ban Na Mun Dun Sad Environmental Conservation Group has documented local state officials’ attempts to facilitate the approval process and petroleum drilling operation in Dong Mun Oil exploration field for APICO (Khorat) Co. Ltd. The exceptional speed of the approval process surrounding the drilling operation has raised questions of the transparency and accountability. For example, it is alleged that the Company has not complied with some environmental and health protection measures required by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, as based on the standards and guidelines established by the1992 Environmental Protection and Promotion Act.
There are two major incidents which have prompted the community to question alleged abuses of state power, and an allegation of corruption committed by local security officials to facilitate the transportation of APICO trucks carrying drilling equipment to the oil well.
The first incident took place from 12 – 18 February 2015 when security officials led by Colonel Chaturaphong Bok-bon, the deputy head of the Khon Kaen provincial Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC), deployed approximately 200 security officials including police officers, defense volunteers, and village volunteers to guard an estimated 100 of the APICO (Khorat) Co. Ltd. trucks transporting oil-drilling equipment to Dong Mun No. 5 oil well, which is located about a kilometer away from the villages. This Dung Mun No. 5 oil well is located in the heartland of villagers’ agricultural land and farming, and is a designated oil exploration site under the concession round 19 granted to APICO (Khorat) Co. Ltd.
The security forces, allegedly led by the Deputy Head of Khon Kaen ISOC, threatened, intimidated and blocked villagers from protesting or opposing the oil exploration process on that day – facts corroborated by the extensive media coverage of the event.
This incident demonstrated the abuse of state power by security officials, clearly violating the rights of villagers to promote and protect their community and natural resources and to express their concerns without fear from threat and intimidation.
The second incident took place late at night on 5 October 2015 while most of the community members were asleep; some villagers were preparing equipment to cultivate their rubber plantation spotted a caravan of about 20 company trucks transporting oil-drilling equipment driving through the villages without prior notification. Transporting oil-drilling equipment into the villages in the middle of the night without advanced warning or notification does not sound like a well-intention operation.
Whether or not Thailand is under a “normal” or “abnormal” political situation, communities have the right to participate in decision-making, and the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Communities also have the right to access government and company information, particularly relating to projects that could have negative impacts on their livelihoods. Finally, communities should have access to open and accurate information about the impacts of drilling operations.
Thailand and its people have faced serious social and political dislocation since the 2014 military coup, but APICO (Khorat) Co. Ltd. the company has taken advantage of the situation to further its own interests and expedite the oil drilling operation. Communities alleged that security officials have exercised their power to silence villagers who have spoken out and expressed their concerns regarding the health and environmental impacts of the drilling operation.
Local communities have raised also concerns as to whether APICO (Khorat) Co. Ltd. has complied with standards of corporate accountability, transparency and good governance. There is evidence to suggest that the company has chosen to pursue oil exploration in an undemocratic political climate, at the expense of the local communities who have been affected by the negative impacts from the drilling operation. The deployment of provincial security officials to threaten and intimidate villagers, who formed a group to express their concerns and protect the natural resources of their communities, runs contrary to the democratic principles of which the United States has been a leading model for countries around the world.
Therefore, we, the Ban Na Mun Dun Sad Environmental Conservation Group would like to call for Mr. Glyn T. Davies, the US Ambassador to Thailand to initiate an impartially investigation into the allegation of compromised transparency and good-governance by the US companies invested in the above project, namely APICO (Khorat) Co. Ltd. and the APICO LLC Co. We urge the US authorities to conduct an impartial investigation into the allegation that the oil-drilling operation in Khon Kaeng province has driven security officials to be involved in bribery and corruption in order to obstruct and intimidate villagers who stand up to protect the human rights of their communities.
We request that this petition submitted today be passed on to relevant US authorities including the White House, the Congress, and the House Subcommittee in charge of monitoring responsible investment and good-governance of US companies. We urge the relevant authorities mentioned above to conduct an impartial and independent investigation into the operations of the two companies and disclose and disseminate the results of the investigation to the community and general public as soon as possible.
The Ban Na Mun Dun Sad Environmental Conservation Group