Thai military aids petroleum company secure oil field despite local opposition

The military has helped a petroleum company bypass proper environmental impact assessment procedures and an NHRC order to halt petroleum exploration and threatened villagers opposing the exploration with martial law.

About 40 armed police and military officers on Friday morning assisted Apico (Korat) Limited, a US-based oil and gas exploration company, to move oil-drilling equipment into a potential oil field called Dongmoon in Kranuan District of the northeastern province of Khon Kaen.

About 40 police officers guarding the main road to the potential oilfield in Kranuan District of the northeastern province of Khon Kaen on Friday.

The villagers of Kranuan District have long opposed the plan to explore the oilfield because the plan and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) were conducted without the involvement of local people who are to be directly affected by the operations.

In January, the villagers collected names and submitted a petition to Khon Kaen Administrative Court in an attempt to stop the drilling operation. Although the court has not yet reached a verdict, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recently issued a statement to halt the project temporarily.

Apico Company’s convoy entering the village on Friday with the help of the authorities.

Despite the NHCR statement, police officers, plain-clothes military officers and government officials at around 9.40 am on Friday reportedly helped the company to occupy major roads leading to the oil field to secure the convoy’s access to the area.  

The operation was carried on all day and the company was able to move some drilling equipment into the field.  

On the same night, about 20 police and military officers from Khon Kaen Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) came to talk to village leaders and a local environmental conservation group and threatened to use martial law if the villagers obstruct the company’s operations because the Department of Mineral Fuels permitted the company to explore the field as of Wednesday.

Police and plain-clothes military officers talk to village leaders and an environmental conservation group on Friday night.