MAC: Mines and Communities

Thai villagers attacked after blocking road to gold mine

Published by MAC on 2014-05-18
Source: Mining.com, statements (2014-05-18)

Thai villagers attacked after blocking road to gold mine: reports

Cecilia Jamasmie

Mining.com

16 May 2014

Hundreds of armed men struck a village in northern Thailand and reportedly attacked residents who were blocking the road to a gold mine operated by Tongkah Harbour, said to be on public land, Bangkok Post reports.

Villagers have for years contested the mining operation run by Tungkum Ltd, a subsidiary of Tongkah Harbour Pcl., Thailand's largest gold mining company. They claim the operation has poisoned the creeks and waterways on which the communities rely for food, irrigation and drinking water.

Since late 2012, the tailings pond has collapsed several times. And while the company claims spills were contained, residents contend that more chemicals flooded into their streams and fields.

South East Asia Globe reports that residents have experienced an alarming rise in health issues, including chronic headaches, eye pain, blackouts, vertigo and abnormal rashes all over their bodies, ever since the company began operations.

According to Reuters, Tongkah Harbour faces delisting of its shares from the Stock Exchange of Thailand for failing to submit financial statements. Its shares have been suspended since February 2012.

Gold consumption has spike in Thailand over the last 10 months. Data from the World Gold Council shows that consumer gold demand in the country rose 58% per cent to 26.6 tons in the second quarter of 2013, compared to the same period a year earlier.

Jewellery manufacturers have contributed to the surge, as the Thai government doesn't charge tariffs on gold imports, and it also waives the 7% value-added tax for registered jewels makers.

Thailand is the third largest Asian consumer, behind only India and China, which -in turn- consume more than 60% of global gold.


 

Joint Statement Condemning Violence Against The Villagers “RAK Ban Kerd”
(LOVE Native Land) Environmentalist Group in Loei Province, Thailand

Joint Press Release

16 May 2014

On the night of May 15, 2014 continuing until dawn of 16 May, 2014, a group of approximately 100 unidentified armed men covering face reportedly used force to detain and attack the "Rak Ban Kerd" villagers who were on guard to block the trucks transporting the gold mine's materials from passing through the village - Ban Na Nong Bong, Tambon Khao Luang, Wang Sa Phung District, Loei Province. The violent attack caused injury and harm to villagers. More than 20 are injured with at least 7 severely injured who have been hospitalised. Initially, in order to operate the transportation of materials from the gold mine, the armed men raided to arrest the villagers, had their hands tied, forced them to lie face down, physically assaulted, threaten with guns and obstructed the transfer of injured villagers to hospital. Subsequently, a number of trucks were able to transport the materials from the mine through the village.

The ENLAWTHAI Foundation (EnLAW) and the undersigned organizations strongly condemn the use of force and violence against "Rak Ban Kerd" villagers group which are unlawful, violate the rights to life and security and liberties of person fundamentally guaranteed by the Constitution as well as international human rights law, and threaten those exercising their rights as human rights defenders to protect the community's way of life, the right to environment and the right to health.

To prevent the repetition of violence and setting legitimate social norms in Thai society, the EnLAW and the undersigned organizations call for the following actions;

1. The police and relevant local administrative authorities must urgently investigate into the violent assault and threats against the villagers and bring perpetrators and those involved to justice;

2. The relevant authorities must promptly provide effective remedies to the affected villagers;

3. The police and relevant local administrative authorities must take all measures to protect the community to ensure that such violent attacks, threats and violations of rights and liberties of the people will not repeatedly happen;

4. The Government and relevant authorities responsible for human rights protection must take all necessary measures to provide a systematic mechanism to protect human rights defenders.

ENLAWTHAI Foundation [EnLAW]

Human Rights Lawyer Association [HRLA]

Union for Civil Liberty [UCL]

Cross Cultural Foundation [CrCF]

Center for Protection and Revival of Local Community Rights [CPCR]

The Community Resources Centre (CRC)

Ecological Alert and Recovery - Thailand [EARTH]

GreenPeace Southeast Asia

Institute for Jurists and Human Rights Development [JUSTRIGHTS]


Thailand: Fears for Villagers After Attack

Amnesty Urgent action - UA 130/14 AI Index: ASA 39/006/2014

19 May 2014

There are grave concerns for the safety of the 700 residents of Nanongbong village in north-eastern Thailand, after it was attacked by at least 100 unidentified armed men on 15 May. Some of the villagers were assaulted and detained for around six hours during the incident. It is believed that the attack is connected to opposition to the planned expansion of a local gold mine.

Villagers from Nanongbong village have reported that at 10pm on 15 May at least 100 men armed with metal sticks, knives and guns, entered their village in Wangsaphung District, Loei Province. The intruders attacked a checkpoint manned by villagers to stop trucks from leaving and entering the nearby Phutahpfa gold mining site. Around 30 villagers were forced to lie face down with their hands and feet bound for some six hours. During this time the intruders broke down a barrier built by the villagers to block access to the mine, and a convoy of trucks transported materials from the mine. The intruders assaulted and threatened the villagers with guns before leaving at around 4.30am. At this stage the identity of the armed intruders, some of whom were reportedly wearing masks, is unknown. The Superintendent at Wangsaphung Police Station has stated that police will investigate the attack, hold perpetrators to account, and launch a disciplinary probe into the lack of effective police intervention to stop it.

Those detained included the leaders of the People who Conserve Motherland (Khon Rak Ban Koed) group, which monitors the impact of the gold mining project and opposes its planned expansion. The attack follows reports of increasing threats and intimidation against the villagers in Nanongbong, believed to be as a result of their activities opposing the mine.

Please send a fax, email or letter without delay.

Address your appeals to

Minister for Industry:
Prasert Boonchaisuk
Ministry for Industry
Rama VI Road
Bangkok, Thailand
Fax: 011 66 2 202 3048

Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister for Natural Resources and Environment:
Vichet Kasemthongsri
Ministry of National Resources and Environment
Pollution Control Department Building
92 Phohol Yothin soi 7
Phohol Yothin Road, Phayathai
Bangkok, Thailand 10400
Fax: 011 66 2 278 8545
Email: rungtip.t@mnre.mail.go.th

Salutation: Dear Minister

Police Commissioner General:
Adul Saengsinkaew
Royal Thai Police
1st Bldg, 7th Floor Rama I
Patumwan
Bangkok, Thailand 10330
Fax: 011 66 2 205 3738
Salutation: Dear Commissioner General

Please send a copy to
His Excellency Pisan Manawapat
Ambassador, The Royal Thai Embassy
180 Island Park Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1Y 0A2
Fax: (613) 722-6624

Additional information

The company operating the gold mine, Tungkum Limited (TKL), a gold exploration and mining majority owned by the Tongkah Harbour Public Company Limited, has filed criminal and civil charges, including a compensation claim for some 270 million Thai Baht (USD 8.3 million), against the villagers. A court ruling and arbitration in the case is expected on 3 June 2014.

Amnesty International has long-standing concerns for the safety of environmental activists in Thailand. Some 16 have been killed since 2002, and activists regularly face threats and intimidation in connection with their activities.


Armed men attack Thai villagers to get to controversial goldmine

Alisa Tang

Thomson Reuters Foundation

16 May 2014

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Hundreds of armed men descended on a village in northern Thailand and overpowered residents blocking the road to a goldmine said by locals to have caused environmental damage so that trucks could take ore away, villagers said on Friday.

Wearing black and white ski masks and armed with guns, knives and clubs, up to 400 men rounded up and beat 40 people, including women, in the Khao Luang district of Loei province near the northern border with Laos.

Environmental activist group Ecological Alert and Recovery - Thailand (EARTH) said at least 20 people were injured in the attack on Thursday. The unidentified assailants left on Friday.

"They covered villagers' eyes, bound their ankles and wrists and beat them black and blue. They treated us like we weren't human," one villager, Pauntip Hongchai, told Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Residents of Khao Luang have for years contested the mining operations of Tungkum Ltd, a subsidiary of Tongkah Harbour Pcl. Villagers and activists say Tungkum - meaning "paddies of gold" - has poisoned the creeks and waterways on which the communities rely for food, irrigation and drinking water.

Many people have fallen ill, said Nicha Rakpanichmanee, a research officer with EARTH. She said residents had symptoms of arsenic poisoning, with their skin turning black, and heavy metal poisoning that caused muscle weakness and numbness.

After tests by government agencies showed high levels of cyanide - used in the gold extraction process - cadmium and arsenic in local creeks, Loei health authorities in 2009 told villagers to stop drinking from Khao Luang waterways, and the following year told them to stop eating clams from one of the creeks, said Nicha, who has visited the area several times.

"After years of complaints and no action from any government agency to stop the contamination - and villagers felt the contamination was getting worse - the villagers set up a blockade late last year to block large trucks from entering or leaving the premises," she said by phone.

The blockade was destroyed twice, so after building a stronger wall, the villagers deployed rotating shifts of volunteers to sit in a thatch hut and guard it.

LATE NIGHT RAID

On Thursday night the attackers destroyed the barricade allowing 13 trucks carrying ore out of the village, residents said.

Wiraun Rujichaiwat, the wife of a local activist who was also beaten, said the attackers stole gold jewelry, cameras and mobile phones from the villagers. She said the police did not intervene.

"Two policemen came and then left. They didn't do anything. They saw people being beaten and detained," Wiraun told Thomson Reuters Foundation from the police station, where she and other residents had gone to protest.

"People are ill. There are chemicals in the food we grow around our homes. We don't want them mining here. We are against them, and we want them to stop."

Wang Saphung district Police Lieutenant Suthot Waenthongchan declined comment, saying only that he was learning more as villagers came to the police station to voice their complaints on Friday.

"CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP AT ITS BEST"

Tongkah Harbour did not respond to an email requesting comment on the attack and no one answered calls to phone numbers listed on its website.

On their website's corporate social responsibility page, Tongkah says it is aware of the challenges developing countries face and assesses ways that its operations may impact local communities.

"Our aim is to give something back to the community and to set benchmarks to improve the lives of citizens... Tongkah's goal is to be synonymous with corporate citizenship at its best."

Tongkah Harbour's 2012 annual report indicates that Tungkum has mined six plots of land in Loei and plans to expand to 106 more plots of land throughout the province.

The company faces delisting of its shares from the Stock Exchange of Thailand for failing to submit financial statements. Its shares have been suspended since February 2012.

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