Isan activists call for measures to protect environment from gas drilling

An environmental protection group in Isan, Thailand’s northeast, has issued a statement to urge state agencies to come up with measures to protect the local environmental from gas drilling activities.

On Tuesday morning, village activists from Ban Na Mun-Dun Sat Environmental Protection Group, an activist group which has been campaigning against gas drilling in Kranuan District of the northeastern province of Khon Kaen, came to Bangkok to submit a statement to the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) and the Ministry of Energy.

In the statement, the group urged the two state agencies to clarify whether there will be measures to offset the impacts on the environment and the health of local people who are living in areas adjacent to the drilling.

Members of Ban Na Mun-Dun Sat Environmental Protection Group in front of the ONEP office in Bangkok on 16 June 2015. The group’s banner on the left says ‘No gas drilling’.

The group also requested the relevant authorities to open a forum to engage in dialogue with the group and villagers in affected areas about the drilling plans.

In addition, ONEP and the Energy Ministry should establish a committee which would be approved by the villagers in the affected areas and the authorities to assess the impacts of the drilling in the area, the statement added.

At 2:30 pm on Tuesday, the group also visited the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Bangkok to discuss the group’s concerns with UN officials.

Since early 2015, the Department of Mineral Fuels under the Energy Ministry has permitted Apico (Korat) Limited, a US-based oil and gas exploration company, to explore a potential gas field in Kranuan District of Khon Kaen and the nearby province of Kalasin.

Fearing the impacts on health and the environment, the villagers opposed the drilling plan, saying that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the drilling was conducted without their involvement and requested the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to intervene in the matter.

The NHRC later ordered the company to halt drilling operations. However, in early February, military and police officers assisted the company to transport 45 trucks loaded with drilling equipment into the gas field.

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