MAC: Mines and Communities

Thailand: Tungkum loses another round in legal battle with villagers

Published by MAC on 2016-04-09
Source: Fortify Rights, OMCT, The Nation (2016-03-31)

Tungkum loses another round in legal battle with villagers

The Nation

31 March 2016

GOLD-MINER Tungkum failed in its bid to seek a Bt50-million compensation from villagers in Loei, as the Loei Provincial Court rejected its appeal yesterday.

The six defendants had last year erected signs at the Na Nong Bong village entrance gate and along the main road within the village, calling for the closure of the mine and rehabilitation of the local environment. Tungkum sought compensation for alleged damage to the company's reputation.

Thiraphan Phankhiri, the lawyer for the villagers, said the court believed the villagers had been affected in some way by this latest in a series of legal actions against them. The villagers were acknowledged for their peaceful and legal fight.

The verdict brought cheers from about 60 villagers who were present in the court. The six are core members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group (KRBKG) - a community-based group committed to defending the local environment from negative impacts of the gold mine.

Conflict between the company and villagers has been ongoing for years.

The records of Fortify Rights, a rights group, showed that the company has brought at least 19 criminal and civil lawsuits against 33 members of the KRBKG and other villagers in the past seven years, pressing for a total of Bt320 million in compensation. After yesterday's verdict, 19 villagers still face criminal and civil cases.

"The company is on a legal rampage to silence its critics," said Amy Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights. "If Tungkum is truly concerned about its reputation, it should rethink its business and legal strategy and drop these charges."

"These lawsuits are not an individual matter, but a public matter, and everyone in our community has been affected," said Surapun Rujichaiyavat, a Facebook user. He was accused of harming the company's reputation by allegedly posting on Facebook a petition letter demanding an investigation into the legality of the mining concession and transport of ore from the mine site. Tungkum dropped the case against him on March 10.

On March 7, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand honoured women of the KRBKG with a prestigious women's human rights defenders award for their role in bringing much-needed attention to critical human rights problems in Thailand.


Thailand: Judicial harassment against members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group for opposing gold mine

OMCT International Secretariat

31 March 2016

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the judicial harassment against members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group (KRBKG), a community-based group committed to defend the local environment from the negative impacts of the open-pit copper-gold mine, operated by the Tungkum company in Thailand’s Loei province[1].

According to the information received, on March 30, 2016, the Loei Provincial Court dismissed a civil defamation lawsuit brought by the mining company Tungkum against Mr. Suraphan Rujichaiwat, Ms. Viron Rujichaiwat, Mr. Khonglai Phakmi, Mr. Samai Phakmi, Ms. Pornthip Hongchai, and Ms. Mon Khunna - six KRBKG members who are living in communities near the open-pit copper-gold mine - for erecting signs last year at the Na Nong Bong village entrance gate and along the main road in the village, calling for the closure of the controversial mine and rehabilitation of the local environment. Tungkum Ltd. was seeking 50 million Thai Baht (EUR 1,274,000) in compensation from the six KRBKG members for alleged damage to the company’s reputation.

The Observatory welcomes yesterday’s decision, but remains concerned that at least 25 other villagers who oppose the mine’s operations are still facing eight criminal and civil cases brought by Tungkum.

Tungkum has brought at least 19 criminal and civil lawsuits against 33 members of the KRBKG and other villagers in the past seven years, including the case dismissed yesterday. Through these lawsuits, the company has sought a total of 320 million Thai Baht (EUR 8,156,000) from villagers who opposed the mine.

On March 10, the company dropped a separate criminal defamation complaint against Mr. Suraphan Rujichaiwat, who was accused of harming the company’s reputation by posting on Facebook a petition letter demanding an investigation into the legality of the mining concession and the transport of ore from the mine site. In that case, Mr. Suraphan faced up to one year in prison or a fine of up to 20,000 Thai Baht (EUR 510) under Section 326 of the Thai Criminal Code as well as up to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to 100,000 Thai Baht (EUR 2,550) under the Computer Crimes Act.

The Observatory expresses concern for the numerous defamation-related charges brought by the company Tungkum against villagers and members of KRBKG for defending the local environment from negative impacts of the gold mine, and urges the company to immediately drop all lawsuits against them.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Immediately and unconditionally put an end to all acts of judicial harassment against all members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group and villagers who oppose the mine as well as against all human rights defenders in Thailand;

ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Thailand;

iii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 and Article 12.2;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Thailand.

Addresses:

·     Prime Minister, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Government House, 1 Phitsanulok Road, Dusit, 10300, Bangkok, THAILAND; Fax: +66 (0) 2 282 5131

·     Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Sri Ayutthaya Building, 443 Sri Ayutthaya Road, Phaya Thai, 10400, Bangkok, THAILAND; Fax: +66 (0) 2 643 5320; Email: minister[at]mfa.go.th

·     Minister of Justice, Gen Paiboon Khumchaya, 120 Chaeng Watthana Road, Laksi, 10210, Bangkok, THAILAND; Fax: +66 (0) 2 953 0503

·     Pol Gen Somyot Poompanmoung, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, 1st Building, 7th Floor, Rama I Road, Pathumwan, 10330, Bangkok, THAILAND; Fax: +66 (0) 2 251 5956 / +66 (0) 2 251 8702

·     Mr. Wat Tingsamit, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand; 120 Chaeng Watthana Road, Laksi, 10210, Bangkok, THAILAND; Email: help[at]nhrc.or.th

·     Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 715 10 00 / 10 02; Email: mission.thailand[at]ties.itu.int

·     Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 648 30 66; Email: thaibxl[at]pophost.eunet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Thailand in your respective country.


Thailand: Drop Defamation Charges Against Human Rights Defenders Opposing Gold Mine

End the use of defamation, judicial harassment to silence critics

http://www.fortifyrights.org/publication-20160330.html

30 March 2016

Bangkok - Gold-mining company Tungkum Ltd. should immediately and unconditionally drop all defamation-related charges against six human rights defenders allegedly involved in erecting anti-gold-mining signs in Thailand’s Loei Province, Fortify Rights said today. The six human rights defenders are core members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group (KRBKG)—a community-based group committed to defending the local environment from negative impacts of the gold mine.
 
The Loei Provincial Court is expected to deliver a verdict this morning in a civil defamation case brought by Tungkum Ltd. against the six KRBKG members for erecting signs at the Na Nong Bong village entrance gate and along the main road within the village, calling for the closure of the controversial mine and rehabilitation of the local environment.
 
Tungkum Ltd. is seeking 50 million Thai Baht ($1.4 million) in compensation from the six KRBKG members for alleged damage to the company’s reputation.
 
“The company is on a legal rampage to silence its critics,” said Amy Smith, Executive Director of Fortify Rights. “If Tungkum Ltd. is truly concerned about its reputation, it should re-think its business and legal strategy and drop these charges.”
 
The six villagers charged in this case are Mr. Surapun Rujichaiyavat, Ms. Viron Rujichaiyavat, Mr. Konglai Phakmee, Mr. Samai Phakmee, Ms. Pornthip Hongchai, and Ms. Mon Khunna, who are living in communities surrounding the Tungkum Ltd. open-pit copper-gold mine.
 
On March 10, the company dropped a separate criminal defamation complaint against Surapun Rujichaiyavat, who was accused of harming the company’s reputation by allegedly posting on Facebook a petition letter demanding an investigation into the legality of the mining concession and transport of ore from the mine site. In that case, Surapun Rujichaiyavat faced up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of up to 20,000 Thai Baht (US $5,600) under Section 326 of the Thai Criminal Code as well as up to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to 100,000 Thai Baht (US $2,810) under the Computer Crime Act.
 
“These lawsuits are not an individual matter, but a public matter, and everyone in our community has been affected,” Surapun Rujichaiyavat told Fortify Rights.
 
Villagers from six communities surrounding the mine formed KRBKG in 2007 to advocate for a clean environment and to oppose the mining operation. On March 7, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand honored women of the KRBKG with a prestigious women human rights defenders award for their role in bringing much-needed attention to critical human rights problems in Thailand.
 
KRBKG members exercised their right to freedom of opinion and expression by erecting anti-mining signs within the village in Loei Province, and these actions constitute the legitimate work of human rights defenders, which Thailand has a duty to protect, Fortify Rights said.
 
Fortify Rights also called on the Government of Thailand to decriminalize defamation. Under international law, criminal penalties, and particularly imprisonment, are considered disproportionate forms of punishment for defamation. In Thailand, defamation laws tend to effectively restrict legitimate forms of speech, violating the right to freedom of expression and infringing on other fundamental rights.
 
Tungkum Ltd. has brought at least 19 criminal and civil lawsuits against 33 members of the KRBKG and other villagers in the past seven years, including the six members awaiting today’s verdict. Through these lawsuits, the company has sought 320 million Thai Baht (US$9 million) from villagers in Loei. Currently, eight criminal and civil cases involving at least 25 villagers are pending.
 
Most recently, the company filed criminal defamation complaints against a 15-year-old Thai schoolgirl and the Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS). On March 21, the Bangkok Criminal Court postponed the merit hearing in the Thai PBS case to May 30, 2016.
 
In 2015, the Central Bankruptcy Court in Thailand ordered Tungkum Ltd. to undergo a “business rehabilitation process.” In February 2016, Tongkah Harbour—the parent company of Tungkum Ltd.—announced plans to begin mining operations in Laos and Myanmar.

“Businesses have a responsibility to promote and protect human rights,” said Amy Smith, Executive Director of Fortify Rights. “The company should drop all unwarranted charges against human rights defenders and end this outrageous legal campaign against fundamental freedoms, which is ultimately harmful to Thailand.”
 
For more information, please contact:
 
Amy Smith, Executive Director, Fortify Rights, Tel: +66 (0) 87.795.5454 (Thailand),
amy.smith[at]fortifyrights.org; Twitter: @AmyAlexSmith, @fortifyrights

Matthew Smith, Executive Director, Fortify Rights, Tel: +1.202.503.8032 (US),
matthew.smith[at].org; Twitter: @matthewfsmith, @fortifyrights

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