Thai military summons student shooting film in mine conflict area in Isan

The Thai military officers in Isan, northeastern Thailand, summoned a student filmmaker for talks because the student did not asked for permissions to film a documentary in a restricted area with protracted mining conflict.

On 24 July 2015, the military officers of the northeastern Maha Sarakham Province summoned Pariwat Kampeera, a 21 years-old student of Maha Sarakham University for a discussion over a documentary he had filmed for a TV program called ‘Thi Nee Ban Rao’ (This is my home) of Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS).

The officers reasoned that Pariwat did not obtain formal permission for filming in Ban Na Nong Bong Village of Wang Sapung District of Loei province, an area where there is an ongoing mining conflict between a gold mine company and anti-mine villagers.

The documentary is about Huay Creek, a small creek that flows through the conflicted area of Wang Sapung District.

Earlier, Pariwat had signed a memorandum of understanding with the military in the region which states that he must ask for permissions from the authorities to access the conflict area because the area is declared as restricted by the state officials.

According to Pariwat, he did not submit a letter to ask for permissions to access the area because he and his filmmaking crews did not have time to do so since the new semester of Maha Sarakham university is about to start.

He added that at the discussion, the military officers asked to screen the documentary before it goes on air and reminded him that he must ask for permissions before entering the conflict area.

“This is the suspension of rights and we not not prisoners. We haven’t done anything wrong and we are not doing anything against the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO),” said Pariwat. “I have no right to learn. I don’t understand why do I have to ask [for permissions] because I haven’t done anything illegal.”

According to Lt Col Noppasit Pongwaraphaisan a high ranking military officer of Maha Sarakham, all universities must cooperate with the military and ask for permissions before organising students activities, which are founded by outside organisations.

The military officer cited that they do not know the intentions of the Thai PBS in funding such activities for students and there might be third parties, which use the students to achieve certain agendas.

The officer added that Dao Din Group, a student activist group based in Khon Kaen University, many of whose members were among the 14 anti-junta activists recently released, have already been active in the mining conflict area and that the other groups should not become involved with their activities.