Junta urged to stop using martial law while plundering natural resources

A people’s forum on reform pointed out that the junta uses martial law to silence people while plundering natural resources in communities nationwide against the will of the local people.  

People’s National Reform Council (PNRC) urged the junta to stop using martial law to suppress freedom and allow public participation in governance at a public forum entitled ‘Monitoring the expansion of state authority; protecting people’s power; the new constitution must be better’ held on Wednesday at the  National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) in Bangkok.

The forum discussed current conflicts over land and other natural resource between state parties and local people, such as the oilfield concession in Kranuan District in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen, the plan to construct a coal-powered electricity generating plant in southern Krabi Province, and the eviction of villagers in Khon San District of northeastern Chaiyaphum Province.

Forum participants pointed out that the lesson from the current resource conflicts between the junta and local people is that the government tends to ignore community rights over resources and local social and environmental impacts while using martial law as one of the mechanisms to monopolize resource management.

Central to this problem is the outdated centralized state model which feeds on prolonged social and economic inequity in the country, the forum concluded.

Participants added that the junta’s resource policies violate community rights. The group pointed out the recent incident in Khon Kaen, when the state authorities assisted an oil exploration company to transport drilling equipment into the exploration area despite the villagers’ opposition, and the eviction of villagers in Khon San District of Chaiyaphum in accordance with the junta’s forest protection policy (Order 64/2014 of the National Council for Peace and Order).

Moreover, the junta’s attempts to amend laws on the management of natural resources, such as the new Mining Bill, might expand the state’s monopoly over resources to give out state concessions to private companies without having to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs).