Isan villagers ask court to halt petroleum drilling

An environment conservation group in Isan, Northern Thailand, has requested the court to halt petroleum drilling.   

About 30 village activists opposing drilling in a potential petroleum field called Dongmoon located in Kranuan District of the northeastern province of Khon Kaen at the border with Kalasin Province on Tuesday, 6 October 2015, requested Khon Kaen Provincial Administrative Court to hold an emergency hearing to halt the drilling operation.

The activists, who call themselves the Na Moon-Doon Sat Conservation Group, want Apico (Korat) Limited, a US-based oil and gas exploration company which received a concession to carry out petroleum drilling in the area, to stop running tests on petroleum deposits in the area for a second time, saying that it goes against conditions stated in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The administrative court judges said that the court will look into the case and has scheduled a hearing on 15 October 2015.  

While marching to the court, the activists reported that police officers asked the group not to show anti-petroleum drilling banners, saying that the action might breach the 2015 Public Assembly Act.

About 30 activists from Na Moon-Doon Sat Conservation Group marching to Khon Kaen Administrative Court on 6 October 2015 (courtesy of Na Moon-Doon Sat Conservation Group Facebook page)

According to the activists, at 1 am on Monday, 5 October 2015, about 20 trucks loaded with petroleum drilling equipment entered the Dongmoon petroleum field against the locals’ opposition.

Prior to this incident, Apico informed the villagers that they will run a second test on petroleum deposits in Dongmoon for about a month starting from 7 October.

The local activists and villagers oppose the company’s plan to run the test, reasoning that the EIA which was approved by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning did not mention a second test drill.

The Na Moon-Doon Sat Conservation Group and local citizens on 2 October 2015 submitted a letter to the Governor of Khon Kaen to look into the matter, but there has been no response from the provincial administration.

In February 2015, oil and gas explorations in Kalasin and Khon Kaen Province hit the national headlines after about 40 armed police and military officers assisted Apico Company to move drilling equipment into Kranuan District of Khon Kaen.

Kranuan District villagers 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 will be directly affected by the operations.

In January 2015, 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.

However, police and military officers from Khon Kaen Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) claim that the Department of Mineral Fuels has already permitted the company to explore the field.