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Aug-20-2014 18:30printcomments

Thailand: Continued intimidation of human rights defender Mr Surapan Rujichaiway

Two civil lawsuits against local villagers are being heard 19-22 August 2014.

The country of Thailand

(LONDON) - A letter to General Chan-ocha, of the Royal Thai Army:

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha
Royal Thai Army Headquarters
Rachadamnoen Nok Road,
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Fax: (+66-2) 226 1838

Dear General,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, human rights activist and freelance journalist.

On 16 August 2014, the wife of Wang Saphung community leader Mr Surapan Rujichaiwat received a phone call during which an unidentified individual threatened him for his campaign work on behalf of the Wang Saphung community in relation to its dispute with the gold-mining company, Tung Kha Limited Company (TKLC).

Two civil lawsuits, taken by TKLC against local villagers, are being heard between 19 and 22 August 2014.

The company is seeking compensation ranging from HB 50 million to THB 700 million (US$ 1.5 to 2.2 million) from each villager. Twenty villagers are being sued in case Por 974/2556, and six villagers are being sued in case Por 859/2556.

Surapan Rujichaiwat has been actively involved in opposing the opening of a gold mining project in Loei Province. He has regularly attended and given talks at environmental meetings. Surapan Rujichaiwat helped persuade many local villagers of the likely negative impact of the mining operation on their health and livelihood.

He has been part of the core coordination team of the Khon Rak Ban Koed Group (KBRK), a group of villagers from six villages (including Nanongbong) that strives to protect the environment and natural resources of their village, and to uphold their community’s agricultural practices.

The KRBG protested against the mining industry and the expansion of the Phuthapfa gold mine by TKLC in the Loei province in north-eastern Thailand. All mining operations have been suspended since before an attack on the Wang Saphung community on 15 May 2014. On 15 May 2014, a group of approximately 300 unidentified armed men wearing black entered Nanongbong village and proceeded to physically assault the villagers. During the raid, around forty villagers were held for about seven hours with their hands and feet bound.

Thai Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha
Photo: Xinhua

Reportedly, the detained villagers were threatened with guns, physically assaulted, and some women were threatened with rape. At the same time, around thirteen trucks were seen transporting materials from the mine. Seven villagers were hospitalised as a result of the raid and more than twenty were left injured.

On the afternoon of 30 May 2014, about half a dozen armed and muscular men were seen standing among the rubber trees near Surapan Rujichaiwat's home. At around 8:00 pm on 1 June 2014, gunshots were heard behind the house of another community leader.

There are rumours that a group has been employed to kill the community leaders. As a result of the danger, villagers were too afraid to go out to tap rubber for fear of losing their lives, and are staying indoors after sunset. KRBG has expressed its rejection of gold mining through a series of mass demonstrations and cultural activities in defence of a healthy environment.

On 17 August 2014, a meeting was held between the Wang Saphung community and TKLC representatives. The meeting was mediated by the Wang Saphung District Chief and other authorities were also present, including the Military District Commanding Officer for Loei Province, the Provincial Police Chief, and the Managing Director of TKLC, as well as the concerned village leaders. Reportedly no agreement was reached during the meeting.

I believe that the attacks and intimidation against human rights defenders and villagers in the Khon Rak Ban Koed Group is a direct result of their opposition to the mining operations of Tung Kha Limited Company.

I urge the authorities in Thailand to:

1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and independent investigation into the threats against Mr Surapan Rujichaiwat with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee at all times the physical and psychological integrity of Mr Surapan Rujichaiwat and other individuals defending the rights of the people of Khon Rak Ban Koed Group;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Thailand are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

Yours Sincerely,
William Nicholas Gomes
Human Rights Activist and Freelance Journalist
Twitter: @Wnicholasgomes

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