Isan activists condemn Thai junta's petroleum policy

Activists from Thailand’s northeast held a symbolic activity to condemn the junta’s plan to grant petroleum concessions in the region to business interests while pointing out that the Thai junta’s promise to return happiness to the nation is a lie.

Several activists from the Neo E-saan Movement, an environmental protection group in Isan, Thailand’s Northeast, on Thursday attached logos of the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT), Apico Company Limited, a US-based oil and gas exploration company, Tatex Thailand, a concessionaire and operator of Thai Oil and Gas Exploration Concession in Isan, and HESS, a major US-based petroleum company, on the monument to Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, a former Thai dictator (1957-1963), in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen.

Neo E-saan activists read out the group's statement against the junta on 21 May 2015 in front of the monument to former dictator Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat in Khon Kaen.

The group also attached a message reading ‘Petroleum Dictator’ at the base of the monument before reading the group’s statement a day before the anniversary of the 2014 coup d’état.

According to the group, under the guise of national reform, the Thai junta is using its authority under martial law and the Interim Charter to evict people from protected areas and coming up with policies to manipulate and sell off natural resources to corporations.

The statement pointed out that the junta is using its authority to give out mining and petroleum concessions to business interest groups and to implement plans to monopolise water resource management via dam projects in the Isan region.

Currently, the junta is using its power to push a policy to open up 17 potential oil fields in Isan, stated the group, pointing as an example to the assistance that Thai military officers gave to a petroleum company in February to transport drilling equipment despite villagers’ opposition in Khon Kaen.

Neo E-saan activists hold a banner saying ‘Petroleum Dictator’ with logos of the petroleum companies at Khon Kaen train station on 21 May 2015.  

In addition, the statement alleged that the junta’s petroleum policy is meant to serve business interest groups, some of which, such as PTT, have shares owned by military officers and other high-ranking state officials.  

On the same day, group members also displayed a banner saying ‘Petroleum Dictator’ with logos of the petroleum companies at Khon Kaen train station.